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UC-NRLF 





FIELD-FARINGS 

MARTHA'M C C-W!LLJAMS 







THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

PRESENTED BY 

PROF. CHARLES A. KOFOID AND 
MRS. PRUDENCE W. KOFOID 



FIELD-FARINGS 

A Vagrant Chronicle of Earth and Sky 



BY 



MARTHA McCULLOCH WILLIAMS 



"A picture-frame -for yo^l to fill' 1 ' 1 
R. L. STEVENSON 




NEW YORK 

HARPER & BROTHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE 
1892 



Copyright, 1892, by HARPER & BROTHERS. 

All rights reserved. 



BuJ, 



TO 

ONE WHOSE HEART IS A GARDEN 
ALL OF FRAGRANT THINGS 

MRS. MARGARET E. SANGSTER 
THIS LITTLE BOOK 

1F0 Xovfngls IFngcribeD 



M354472 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

SNOW-FALL I 

NEW GROUND 1$ 

AT FLOOD 24 

WINDS O' MARCH ' 30 

A LITTLE EARTH 38 

WHERE THE BEE SUCKS 48 

TREES ABLOSSOM 55 

GREEN FIELDS 62 

A MOON O' MAY 68 

IN A RIOTOUS GARDEN 74 

SUMMER RAIN 83 

IN THE OLD FIELD 91 

WHEAT HARVEST IO2 

HIGH SUMMER Io8 

DOWN THE CREEK 114 

IN THE ROSE GARDEN. 122 



PAGE 

GHOST-LAND 128 

HORSE AND AWAY 134 

AUGUST LILIES 142 

THROUGH FIELDS AFLOWER .... 148 

WHAT SAITH SEPTEMBER? 153 

IN "THE MOON OF FALLING LEAVES" . 160 

ALL IN A MIST l66 

TONGUES IN TREES 173 

SUNDOWN l8o 

AFTER FROST 187 

IN AT THE DEATH. . 193 

GATHERING CORN 2OI 

A HUNTER'S MOON 212 

IN MONOCHROME 224 

FRESH FIELDS AND PASTURES NEW . . 230 
COME CHRISTMAS-DAY 237 




SNOW-FALL 

N you love Nature, our moth- 
er, a winter world shall tempt 
you forth as strongly as sum- 
mer sunshine. All the more 
if your lines are cast where 
snow is an event, not a commonplace of 
long, white monotony. All of yesterday 
it was falling, falling, sifting down in fine, 
needle-sharp lines. At nightfall the flakes 
grew big and feathery, as though the 
snow -cloud had a mind to come bodily 
to earth. 

The weatherwise knew what it meant 
a clear sunrise, a faint, keen blast sitting 
steady at northwest. East wind is the 
snow-bringer. His brother, whose home is 
in the far Rocky Mountains, breaks and ban- 
ishes the low, protecting clouds. Truly, 
God giveth snow like wool. Without it, the 
earth loses in myriads her tender seedlings. 
It brings to her also strength, vital force. 
That electric condition, wherein you feel 



"snow in the air," is marvellously fructify- 
ing. So light, so white, the thistle-down of 
winter, it comes bearing gifts that shall 
make all the world glad. 

Promise of full harvest is in it. Full 
streams, too ; also the early and the latter 
rains. Give thanks for all, and venture forth 
spite of this nipping air. All paths lie un- 
broken. To walk through this twelve-inch 
fall sets blood atingle to your finger-tips. 

The game is worth the candle. Even if you 
saw no more than the white, fine curves of 
mounded drift and hillock. Low and soft 
are they warm beds for Earth's tiny chil- 
dren, not cruel grave-mounds over her dead. 
The snow did its spiriting gently indeed. 
It fell almost without wind. Here, in the 
orchard, branch, bough, twig lie heaped with 
glistening white, and bent all to earth with 
the clouds' fair gift of pearls. Part the 
boughs over the pathway with gentlest touch, 
yet tiny avalanches shower upon you. All 
the grieving grave-yard cedars are tall, ghost- 
ly cones even the brier-clumps turned to 
ivory -carvings, more exquisitely patterned 
than ever came from mortal hand. 

Something rifts a cedar's southernmost 
side something more than dazzling against 
this world of white. Ah ha ! Master Red- 



bird took refuge from the snow in this dark 
evergreen fastness now he is minded to 
stir abroad for a breakfast more to his taste 
than the cedar's thick blue-berries. See ! 
he perches on a tall apple-bough, so lightly 
as scarce to disturb its crown of snow. Lis- 
ten to his low, insistent call. Madame, his 
mate, is most like a sleepy- head, dozing 
yet upon her perch within. How he sways 
in the wind a flower of the air ruffling his 
small throat till the laggard love comes to 
him. Hers is a querulous note. Perhaps 
she is reminding him that she knew last fall 
it was going to snow and how very, very 
much better if they had flitted south, along 
with other fashionable folk in feather. 

Poor little body ! Her red-throated, ruffled 
coat does seem a pitiful protection against 
this cold. It strengthens hourly, spite of 
the sunshine. This barn here in the outly- 
ing field has one steep roof-side fair to the 
south. The snow upon it smokes and thaws 
faintly the drippings thereof freeze in 
crystalline fringes all along the eaves. 

It is one of those days, 

" When icicles hang on the wall. 

****** 
And milk comes frozen home in pail." 



Tramp lustily forward, with head upheld, 
with mouth close-shut, and no harm of it 
shall befall you. Now we gain the wood's 
edge, and look back at the long fields criss- 
crossed with snow-capped fences, streaked 
faintly hither and yon with trails of ven- 
turous foot-prints. 

Woodsmen are all abroad. From every 
hand axe-strokes ring cheerily through the 
bitter air. Leave them behind, and plunge 
into the deep forest, whose big boles show 
in dim, dark colonnades against the white 
earth. There only does the winter most 
truly enthrall you. The sharp wind is shiv- 
ered into a long, chill sighing. Especially 
here in lee of this low slope, clothed top to 
bottom with trees that, had they tongues 
understood of men, could tell you rare tales 
of vanished days, vanished races of Creek 
and Choctaw and Cherokee of Algonquin 
and Ojibwa who by turns killed deer, or 
bear, or buffalo in their shadow, or turned 
tomahawk and arrow one against the other's 
breast. 

All this wide, central region was dark and 
bloody ground, held of no tribe, hunted, 
wrestled over by all. It is sown thick with 
their weapons every ploughman turns them 
up. Here, under these huge oaks, was once 



a famous run-way for deer. So much tradi- 
tion avouches. Three miles away, the Buf- 
falo Ford, across a wide, swift stream, holds 
tangible memory of those giants of the 
plain. 

Men yet living have seen them cross it 
by hundreds by thousands. Now, lack-a- 
day ! their heads are dust, their bones 
ableach on the lessening prairie. Yet these 
goodly saplings of their day stand stanch 
and tall, laughing rarely with the summer, 
daring the winter's stress. They are intol- 
erant of neighbors less lordly. No low 
shrubs cumber them at root. Aspiring sap- 
lings fight hard for life in their shade, and 
win only by shooting up, miraculous tall and 
slim, to claim a share of sunshine. 

All overhead is a tangle of locked boughs. 
You can see no sky clear of their lacy net- 
work. Wherefore, never look hence at the 
horned new moon. Seen first " through 
brush" she is sure presage of woe. Now 
she is invisible. Your eye may range safely 
up and up, a full hundred feet to the branchy 
tips. Let it fall slowly, slowly, marking all 
beneath. Here you may surprise a-many 
sylvan secrets. Something big and dark 
sits huddled against the great oak's mid- 
most branch so high that only a hunter 



or master of wood-craft would know it for a 
wild turkey. There is another two, in fact 
in the white-oak just beyond. Hunted 
well-nigh to extinction, they find asylum 
here in this lingering stronghold of the for- 
est primeval. 

Aperch, with head beneath the wing, they 
look a temptingly easy prey. Wait ! break 
but one twig whisper even above your 
breath they are away down wind, on wide, 
tireless pinions that only the fleetest horse 
can follow. Yet they are simple fellows 
easily fooled, despite the caution born of 
danger. Gregarious, too, and curious as a 
monkey. The wily hunter knows it to the 
bird's cost. He builds a blind of brush and 
leaves, hangs twenty yards in front of it 
some bit of red stuff, hides himself, and calls 
upon a " yelping bone " till the woodland 
rings with his counterfeit note. 

Woe to the birds that hear it. They set 
off at the run, to hunt this stranger evidently 
lost in the wood. Running they give out 
answering calls the sharp yelping prut-t, 
that once heard is never forgotten. Nearer, 
nearer it sounds. The ambushed hunter 
clutches his gun, sights along the barrel 
towards his red flag. It is there his quarry 
will pause, curiously peering, checked by the 



unfamiliar sight, in his search for the unseen 
yelpers. A minute of nervous fingering, 
"lining up " the flock fiery death bursts out 
from the harmless bush the remnant flut- 
ter away the huntsman rushes out to find 
two, three, it may be even four, fine birds 
enough to salve with the lust of possession 
his conscience against hurt for such un- 
sportsmanlike methods. 

For it is murder premeditate with no law 
for the quarry, such as the gentle art of ven- 
ery allows all hunted things. Perhaps it is 
some floating tradition of that which makes 
the rabbit-hunting lads hold their dogs in 
leash till Mistress Molly Cottontail has a 
clear start. We have passed the wood now, 
and come out upon a neighboring planta- 
tion. The open is alive. Here be great 
dogs and small yelping, snarling, straining 
on their collars, frantic to be tumbling, 
plunging through the snow. 

A mighty various lot are they 

" Mongrel, puppy, whelp, and hound, 
And curs of low degree." 

By the way, did you know the cur's name 
had an historic tang? You thought it gene- 
ric, and most useful as an epithet of scorn. 
In a way it is both, yet runs back to the 



days when the chase was an affair of state. 
Then, by special enactment, dogs of the vil- 
leinage, for the most part low-bred mongrels, 
were required to be curtailed of the feather, 
in order that they might be readily cogniza- 
ble by huntsmen and whippers-in, who could 
thus separate them, in chase, from My Lord's 
racing, fine -bred, true -nosed deer-hounds, 
whom the plebeians might confuse and draw 
to a false scent. From cur-tail dog to cur- 
dog, or simply cur, the descent is easy, even 
without aid from Time's transforming whirl- 
igig- 

Though his name is so foreshortened, his 
race abounds. Folk hereabout are evident- 
ly at one with the canny Scot, who " aye 
thocht a mon leukit sae naked wi'out a bit 
doggie at his heels." Every huntsman, even 
the smallest, holds three to four eager creat- 
ures, betwixt whose plunging and straining 
towards all quarters many falls are his por- 
tion. 

When the snow began Mistress Molly 
perhaps thought it a small affair. She 
crouched comfortably in some tuft of dry 
grass to doze it away. By and by, as it 
grew deeper, she stirred a little, back and 
forth, scooping by pressure of her soft body 
a chamber, barely big enough for it, in the 



white, growing wall. At last it was over her 
back, her long silken ears. Gently, gently, 
she surged against it, till it arched whitely 
over her shut her in safe from wind and 
cold. 

She has not yet left her snow-chamber. 
She supped full of buds before the fall be- 
gan, and has so far 'scaped hunger. Her 
warm breath has melted a tiny window in 
the arched roof, and puffs out through it in 
fairy clouds. It is those which betray her 
hiding-place. Once it is sighted, your pot- 
hunter falls flat upon it, with intent to seize 
outright its furry occupant. 

Sometimes he is successful, and scrambles 
up, holding high above his head the quaking, 
four-footed thing, quavering out a piteous 
cry. Oftener far, Mistress Molly slips safe 
through his fingers, shakes the snow from 
her hair, and goes away with great leaping 
bounds that mark and dent darkly the white, 
yielding surface. 

Bedlam breaks loose then. Once she is 
thirty yards away, dogs are let slip and go 
after her full cry, a yelling, shouting chorus 
at their heels. The chase is not long. Fear 
lends Mistress Cottontail speed, but strips 
her of her cunning. Her line of flight is 
straight-away. If she would but turn aside, 



10 



bend, double on her track, even the lightest 
dog could not over-run her. She is making 
blindly for the far, thick brier -field a 
thorny haven she may never reach. Now 
she drops, flat and breathless, on the snow 
the nearest dog turns a summersault in the 
effort to check him and seize her. Before 
his fellows can come up human hands have 
swung her aloft a loud halloo of victory 
tells other hunters her fate. 

Poor little Mistress Molly ! Eden's inno- 
cence seems to linger in your limpid, appeal- 
ing eyes. You are full of pretty craft, of 
gentle guile. Seemingly you ask little of 
earth space for your young to play, a din- 
ner of herbs and buds. Surely man might 
grant so much ungrudgingly leave you un- 
molested to frisk through woodland ways. 
And yet and yet if he spared you, it were 
his own destruction. You would crowd him 
from the face of earth, eat every green thing, 
and leave behind you a desert inside of a 
hundred years. Verily, the problem of nec- 
essary evil is one too complex for mere hu- 
man solution. 

Now the sun turns westering. Here, at 
the swamp's edge, is a dead tree gaunt, 
white, barkless. Twenty feet from earth a 
hollow makes in. Once a great branch grew 



there. The wild winds tore it away the 
green wound grew at last to this yawning 
dry one. Sound wood rimmed it about 
sound still, though life has so long left the 
parent trunk. Queer tenants house them in 
it. Woodpeckers have flown in and out 
since dawn. A blue-bird is aperch, too, in 
the hollow of one gnarled lip. He sits mo- 
tionless in the sun, heedless that his mate 
calls shrilly to him from the near hedge- 
row. 

A little higher you see a round tunnel- 
mouth in the wood. That is due to Sir Red- 
head one of his choicest bits of engineer- 
ing. There he kept house, and fed his clam- 
orous younglings in the time of cherries. He 
would be there still, but that Master Screech- 
Owl fancied snug winter -quarters, and has 
entered in to possess them. See ! the hunts- 
men have scraped away the snow, and built 
a fire of dead branches at the tree's root. 
It must be some flaw or cranny runs up 
to Master Owl's snug chamber he dashes 
out of it, falls blind and panting on the 
snow. 

Use him delicately. In Nature's economy 
he has his place. What a clown he looks, 
to be sure, flying blindly this way and that, 
as he is set atop of a near bush, falling prone 



12 



to earth, then snapping viciously at the res- 
cuing wand that would raise him. Wisdom's 
bird though he be, he shines only in the 
dark. Sailing slow and noiseless through 
midnight forest aisles, his great eyes gleam- 
ing a green phosphorescence, he is a sight 
to thrill the stoutest heart. Here, in broad, 
honest daylight, like many another bogy, he 
is merely amusing. 

Now we come to a runnel draining slow 
from out the wood. What a brown clear- 
ness the water wears between the white- 
heaped banks ! Here, in the skirting thicket, 
is one of Nature's store-houses a waste- 
place, irreclaimable, wherein she lays up for 
her wild creatures all manner of fruit and 
seed. What clumps of buck-berries grow 
here all the slender, drooping twigs crowd- 
ed with red-purple fruit to the bigness of 
your linger. What scarlet cones of sumach, 
too what fruit of bramble and partridge 
vine what seed of grass and weed ! No 
wonder the place is awhir with wings that 
fine, faint footmarks write on the snow the 
tale of other comers. Squirrels have crept 
down to drink. Brer Possum has dragged 
himself clumsily hither. There are deep 
footmarks, too, to say Reynard the Fox has 
gone padding past. He is a delicate drink- 



13 

er, though, and would scarce bring himself 
to lap this bitter water. 

It begins to skim over. In spite of its 
gliding ripples, long, slender, jagged crystals 
shoot out from either bank. The sun is al- 
most down. The wind has taken on an edge 
of steel. Darkness shall see these shooting 
lines of ice locked in one glassy whole, save 
and except at the "boiling holes," where 
waters of the upland dance out to meet the 
drainings of the swamp. They will save 
flock and feather from thirst through the 
little space of cold. 

Three days is its utmost limit. For see, 
the moon rides in the west a new crescent 
moon, barely able to silver this white world. 
She holds a star in her horns, hangs far to 
south sure portents that the wind will fol- 
low her long ere she swells to quarter. 
Night falls without darkness, j From earth 
to sky there is ebb and flow of light. All 
the happy huntsmen are trooping home, hun- 
gry and full-handed, to hearth-fires glowing 
red. There is no sound abroad save the 
sough of wind through snow -clad boughs, 
undervoiced by the faint complex human 
hum. Presently a fine note breaks through 
the bell in a town-steeple is ringing its call 
to prayer. So far, so faint, it is barely a 



ghost of sou ad, fitting well with this spectral 
world, lying so low and still beneath crowd- 
ing stars. V/i/iAu. jfuA^X^o- 

Shut you straitly away from it. - Draw 
curtains close ; pile on logs till the red flame 
leaps up the chimney throat. Bid winter 
avaunt as you sun you in its warmth, and in 
its deep heart you shall see visions, dream 
dreams, 




NEW GROUND 



LL the Dryads are awailing 
ruin has fallen heavy on their 
immemorial haunts. Steel is 
eating to the heart of oak and 
beech, and walnut and hickory. 
Giants primeval, they must all lie low that 
corn may laugh in their stead, or wheat 
wave yellow, or rank tobacco stand aglisten 
in the sun. After all, axe and plough are 
your real Vandals. They overrun, destroy, 
the forest's royal savagery, turn all its seat 
to tame fields ready for lowliest use. 

The fatness of fresh ground delights all 
growing things. Grain, flower, or weed gets 
root, strength, substance, as by magic. What 
wonder man, living in the sweat of his 
brow, has scant reverence for green trees 
holds them but cumberers of the ground. 
Useful, indeed, for shade and timber and 
firewood, but not one to be set over against 
the sweet, the fat, that may be wrought in 
their stead. 



i6 



He falls furiously upon them, intent to 
carve from among them a broad foundation 
for his fortune. Yearly his fields encroach, 
the remnant grows thinner, but none the 
less sturdy. The last of race and line waves 
defiance to conquering steel as stoutly as 
it has done to a century's storms. When 
needs must, it comes crashing to earth ; cleft 
so bitterly from its brave root, it still holds 
up to heaven protesting branches, crying 
aloud against this sylvan sacrilege. 

Trees give room only through steel and 
fire. The felling is not a tenth part of 
the battle. Have you ever thought what it 
means to wrest an empire from the wilder- 
ness ? Do but look at those four sturdy 
fellows, racing, as for life, to the great yellow 
poplar's heart. Four feet through, if one- 
sap and heart ateem with new blood, just be- 
gun to stir in this February sun it is a field 
as fair, as strenuous, as any whereon athletes 
ever won a triumph of mighty muscle. 

You thought it sapless dormant. The 
woodsmen knew better. The live pinky- 
gray of bark, the flexible fulness of twig, 
the faint loosening of scales, the bud 
told them sap was running up before even 
the first chip parted so hard from the 
wounded trunk. Oak in the sap chips 



freely. Poplar is tough and spongy so soft 
that the axe buries sometimes half-way to 
the eye so deep that the handle splinters in 
the effort of withdrawal. 

The racers have a care for such mis- 
chance. See how they temper their stroke. 
Up, down, in, out, the keen blade flashes ; 
alow, aloft. Two either side, they stand, 
bending, swaying, flashing steely arcs mo- 
mently over and around them. Heroes of 
toil, they fight with this towering giant a 
battle to delight all Walhalla's warrior-gods. 

Listen ! What rhythm of stroke ! If the 
forest must fall, could it wish a statelier 
death-knell ? The pulsing sound throbs up- 
hill, down dell ringing, rolling, in long, 
reverberant swells. It is at once march of 
doom, anthem of promise, whose fulfilment 
Summer shall write large in Plenty's golden 
smile. 

With a wild leap the great tree crashes 
downhill, quivering in all its length, vibrant 
to tiniest tip. Its conquerors barely breathe 
them ere they mount the prostrate trunk, 
measuring, lopping, tossing in piles the 
fine intricacy of small branches. Soon they 
stand arow, each in his allotted place ; axes 
fall swift and swifter on the wood beneath 
their feet. Big chips and small go splut- 



1 8 



tering out over the leafy earth. A little 
space, and the monarch of the hill-side, 
last night so tall and goodly under the mid- 
night moon, has sunk to forms of use lies 
in mill-stocks, in firewood, in promiscuous 
brush-heaps that March winds soon shall 
fan to flame and scatter wide in ashes. 

Twenty acres for new ground. Already 
the axe-men have swept over ten. Attila 
was not more ruthless. No standing thing 
has escaped. First they cut down the un- 
derbrush at root ; laid it orderly away ; left 
dusk-dim aisles all through this God's first 
temple. One by one the aisles have van- 
ished. The clear, pale sunshine plays wan- 
ton-free over virgin soil long hidden from 
his beaming. The guardian trunks yet lie 
thick upon it as though even in death they 
would shield the mother-breast. 

Hither and yon they run. It is no feat 
to walk yards stepping from trunk to trunk. 
By and by the rail-maker will come, with 
wedge and maul, to rend their tough hearts, 
rive asunder their clear sap. Or maybe it 
is the stave-man a mighty connoisseur in 
timber. It must be thus and so of this 
size, of that grain, so wide betwixt heart and 
sap, neither brash nor warping, free of knot 
or windshake, and riving true. 



19 

Given those conditions, the white -oak 
that is his prey may end its usefulness in 
fair France or even twice cross blue water, 
and bring back over sea wine o' Burgundy; 
thin, sour, light claret ; or even the yellow, 
mellow Spanish liquor o' Xeres. If they 
have forests over there, those good vine- 
growers, they have need to conserve them. 
Since the days of flat-boat commerce the 
Mississippi has borne yearly to the Cres- 
cent City an inland tribute of pipe-staves, 
to be sent across the sea. 

Most like, though, no stick of timber shall 
go over the plantation line. Fire and fence 
consume it ravenously ; besides, there is 
building log walls, clap-board, roofs. It 
was necessary timber that, a hundred years 
ago, stayed the emigrant tide among these 
hills, beside these streams ; left the wide 
prairie country, for all its largess of tillable 
land, to beckon in vain, and lie, seas of 
grassy solitude, into a later time. 

Shelter, fire, and water this land assured. 
Stroll on down to the waterside. A fair 
spring bubbles there fresh and warm 
warm, that is, by contrast with this keen 
air. Each axe-man, half-spent and athirst, 
drops prone beside it, and drinks, all harm- 
less, his fill of sweet water. Now they are 



20 



gone cheerly away, lie you down in their 
stead ; let the gliding current lave hand and 
lip ; pick a fine white pebble from its bub- 
bling bed, a trail of green moss from the 
edge, and you shall hold a talisman. 

Bear it far as you will to the solitude 
of desert or city you have but to lay it in 
your hollowed palm or close against your 
cheek, and with shut eyes you shall see 
again this brown, swelling hill, clear for half 
its breadth, this tangle of bough and trunk, 
this enlacement of vine ; you shall hear 
again beat o' axe, rippling water, sighing 
sough of boughs overhead, wind aruffie in 
dry leaves, crows calling one to another 
across the open ; above all, you shall smell 
bruised bark and bud, and rifted wood, and 
new earth, crisping at the touch of fire. 

The dropping sun dips half below the sky- 
line. The wind freshens. The plant-bed 
is afire. All day stout arms have been heap- 
ing it high with brushwood, with round sticks, 
with logs big as a man can carry. Twenty 
yards square, of rich slant earth, it stands, 
a red line to windward, creeping, flickering, 
sending before it licking tongues of watery 
flame. The last sun-ray has vanished you 
would never see such burning in its light. 
Let the wind hold steady one hour here 



21 



will be only coals and embers and burning 
brands. 

Winds are fickle even winds of sun- 
down. Dusk falls calm and stirless ; the 
flame sinks languishes, creeps snail-slow 
through the brush, barely blackening heav- 
ier fuel. The evening-star comes, big and 
white, into the west's pale glowing. And far 
away to southward a slow, faint haze lies 
low above the remaining trees. Wind is 
under it, rain in its breast. The men run- 
ning hither and yon, tossing leaves and 
brush upon the dying fire, look up at the 
cloud-wall with hope and fear. 

One tall fellow raises his hand ; his mates 
stop still and lean, in shirt-sleeves, against 
their rakes, looking all away from the leader 
who has sprung upon a tall stump and whis- 
tles and whistles .for wind. 

It comes at dark rushing, roaring, half 
a hurricane. The plant-bed is one huge 
flame ; the glare of its burning shows red 
against the sky now faintly murk, yet full 
of veiled stars. The wind plays tricks with 
the fire hurls brands about till on every 
hand brush -piles flame twenty feet in air. 
Lines of fire run, too, all along the trampled 
leaves. If once they reach the untouched 
wood, havoc indeed will be wrought. 



All the dark is veined with red light. A 
month hence there will be other burnings. 
All the big knots, the whorls, the forks 
whatever, indeed, is too tough for axe and 
wedge heaped together in huge piles, shall 
lie smouldering for days, with bluebirds 
chirping over them from nests safe - am- 
bushed in high, hollow trees ; blue-jays flash- 
ing, screaming athwart the waking fields. 

Axe-men eye Master Blue-jay askance. 
He is well known to go o' Fridays and 
carry sticks to the devil. With that fuel 
you shall be burned if by any chance you 
stick blade into the tree whereon he is 
aperch and he flies away over your head. 
Indeed, he is a general bringer of ill-luck 
hooted at, pelted away with stones. The 
tree that holds his nest is marked for de- 
struction but no well-informed woodsman 
will sit by a fire of it. He would nearly as 
soon tempt fate by burning upon his own 
hearth wood that the lightning has touched. 
" Thunder-struck," he calls it. Even upon 
the log-pile he scents danger of frost, or 
hail, or wind-torn crops. He drags it care- 
fully outside the clearing, there to thaw and 
resolve into its original elements unhelped 
by fire's red rage. 

Steadily, patiently he toils, singing often 



23 

at his work. The sun climbs high and 
higher. From the rising to the going down 
thereof he rakes and grubs. The smoke 
of his burning at night, at morning 
hangs blue wreaths along all the hills. At 
last comes the coulter, as cruelly sharp as 
justice. Soberly, with low heads, with strain- 
ing necks, the team drag it cutting, rend- 
ing all the tender roots. Each long, black 
furrow is a trail of woodland blood. Once 
and across the narrow plough goes. The 
harrow behind it fairly chokes with mangled 
roots. What fine earth it leaves ! so light, 
so soft, so fragrant. The smell of it out- 
matches even the swelling buds those 
small, brown, scaly miracles that so cun- 
ningly enfold the mystery of growth, the 
glory of flower and leaf. 

Now it lies ready for planting. Happy 
the seed, the root, whose lines fall in such 
place. If the Dryads must seek new groves, 
the fowls of the air new nests rejoice and 
be glad that Nature's alchemy shall return 
toil so strenuous in corn and wine. 




AT FLOOD 



WET world this, my masters. 
Not dank and dripping, but all 
awash. Saith not the prov- 
erb, 

"Wind i* the south, 
It's in the rain's mouth " ? 

How dully it blows reaching humid, lan- 
guorous fingers in slow caress over all the 
wakening world. How gray and low the 
clouds lie, pouring, pelting, till racing run- 
nels furrow all the hill-sides, till creek, mill- 
stream, river, dash down at foaming flood. 
All the level is sheeted water. The swales 
show each a glimmering pool. Far off you 
hear the boom of heavy waters ; overhead, 
all day long, the deep tattoo of big drops 
on the roof. 

Not a monotonous drip, drip. This rain 
never slackens, but ever and anon some 
surcharged cloud sweeps low through the 
sky, pouring out a thunderous deluge. 



25_ 

Through such downfalls the lightning faint- 
ly shimmers, far, low mutterings of the thun- 
der undervoice the plashing rain. Its long, 
gray, slanting lines build a watery wall about 
us. The eye cannot pierce it fifty yards. 
Trees, almost tapping at the window-pane, 
stand ghostly- dim against it, with hardly a 
sighing sweep amid all their half-seen bud- 
ded boughs. 

The sky is moveless, moulded all of 
cloud, and changing only in depth of hue. 
Through the fine, steady fall it is palely dun. 
Heavy, washing rain comes out of' one, 
darkly gray-purple so black, indeed, that 
ofttimes darkness covers the face of earth. 

Through nights, through days, it pelts the 
sodden mould. Still the wind sits at south, 
a giant at ease, the clouds all in his eye. 
Presently a short, sharp gust blows out of 
the west. Another, still another, fitful, 
snarling, furrowing the cloud into long 
leaden ridges, that break and tumble one 
over the other, as this new ill -wind doth 
visit them so roughly. 

Now rain falls only in spurts and spits. 
The cloud parts for a minute you see 
through the rift the laughing blue beyond. 
Now the gray ridgy pall falls over it. A 
sharp touch comes into the air more than 



26 



a hint of frost, but not for this night. The 
wind blows half a gale a conqueror inso- 
lent of victory. Upland he sets all the world 
aroar. Lowland levels, under the lee of 
sharp hills, hold the calm of a great peace. 

How rarely the waters brawl ! From 
every hand comes up a thread of singing. 
How clear they run, all awreath with foam- 
bells. Even ploughland and fallow are 
beaten hard by such floods. These waters 
shine whiter far than those from out the 
woodland, wherein still there lurks some 
taint of leaf and root. What haste they 
make all to the great swale, now all over a 
lake to swim man and horse. One side is 
the long, sloping water-shed spread over how 
many hundred acres. The other, a rim of 
steep, low, rounded hills ; under which the 
waters must tunnel and burrow to level of 
valley streams. All the hill-foot is honey- 
combed with sink-holes round, small pits, 
darkly deep running down, down straight 
through loam and clay, then bending to 
channel under the rock-ribs of the hills. 

Thence come caves. Such runnings un- 
derground abound in this limestone land. 
Before you leave the wide, gray, sullen wa- 
ter here to-day, to-morrow vanished stand 
a minute on the hither verge, to look over 



27 

the pallid earth. It lies weary, patient, sad- 
colored under this breaking sky. Nowhere 
a hue of hope. The woodland stands dim 
and cheerless for all its promise of buds, 
with such trees as have been lured into 
blossom but poor ghosts in rags and tatters. 
Young grass and wheat show drowned and 
sickly green. It seems worse than idle to 
dream of growth and blowth over such 
drenched, hopeless breadths. Fruitful sum- 
mer, indeed, looks further away than when 
sleet-bespangled snow lay white. 

The raw wind chills the marrow, but look 
overhead. See summer's true harbinger 
wild fowl in flight. In the lazy south wind, 
the pouring rain, they heard a call invisible 
to your ears, and are winging to answer it. 
See the wisp of blue-wing pause in mid- 
heaven, hover and circle above the flooded 
swale, then drop to its rocking breast. 
There they will rest and feed diving, 
splashing, calling aloud in sibilant, wheed- 
ling chatter till some gunner creeps upon 
them and showers them with leaden hail. 

Wild geese are more wary. Seldom, in- 
deed, do they dare in broad daylight waters 
thus in the open. They make for the 
covert of wooded streams, feeding thence 
at night in some near wheat-field or corn- 



28 



stubble. And high above these honking 
companies so high, so far, the eye barely 
notes them you see by ones or twos, or at 
most threes, white-winged specks, sweeping 
ever to north upon powerful pinions, too 
tireless to need pause or stay. Those are 
the great wild swans known to folk of the 
country-side as bog-eagles. All winter long 
they have plashed and preened in gulf- 
marshes, in lake and bayou inland. Now, 
the woodsmen tell you, they are bound for 
the North Pole, and will make no stop this 
side that resting-place. 

Certainly, these puny pools must ill-tempt 
a bird so majestic flying, too, so high that 
its harsh, ear -piercing note comes to you 
the faintest dissonance. But it might stop 
at the river-side. There miles upon miles of 
still, gray, waveless waters lie wide over the 
bottoms, either side the racing flood. For 
our river runs down to a greater, that is 
likewise at the flood-mark. All the hundred 
miles betwixt us and the mouth, back water 
spreads, smoothly lapping, faintly eddying, 
over all the level land. 

There it lays up the tribute of its hun- 
dred racing streams. Each comes to it, 
bearing gift of rich earth and sand and silt, 
stolen from hill-side or hollow or its own 



2Q 

crumbling banks. The thrifty river takes 
all, but cannot store it within its own proper 
channel. That were hazardous, indeed. A 
little while, and its bed would be dry land. 
So the wild current sweeps it aside, flinging 
it out to the eddy waters that run back to 
the hills. Therein all the fine, small grains 
fall slowly, slowly, till when the waters go 
out they leave a new earth behind. 

New earth, new life. After it, over it, 
what grass shall laugh to sunlight ! What 
corn shall toss i' the wind ! What bursting 
plenty in barn and byre ! What grace of new, 
strange water-sown flowers ! What strength 
and fulness of leaf and root. As stars keep 
their allotted courses, so, too, do wind and 
water and pelting cloud work together that 
this our earth may be fruitful, green, and 
good. 




WINDS O' MARCH 

t,OUR truest weather chameleon is 
the March wind. April breezes 
may be daintily fickle aweep, 
asmile in the self-same hour 
but it is wind o' March that 
sits steady in the south, blowing high, blow- 
ing low, till spring laughs through all the 
land, then whirls him to the bitter north- 
west, piles cloud on cloud, pelts all the world 
with sleet. 

He spares not even the 

"Daffodils, 

That come before the swallow dares, and take 
The winds of March with beauty." 

Captive he may be, yet thrice cruel to his love. 
See ! he has bedecked her with such weight 
of diamonds her yellow head lies low, never 
to rise again, nor dance and ruffle it, when 
softer airs do blow. Perhaps his thought 
is to make the world so splendid, no eye 
would ever miss the fine glory of blossoms. 
A true enchanter he ! Yesterday the world 



lay gray and sodden under a dripping sky. 
Then his laden legions came hurrying pell- 
mell out of the north, with store of pearl 
and silver and crystal. He commanded, 
it stood fast; he spake, it was done a 
waking world outdazzles Fairyland. 

It must be these are the borrowing-days. 
Saith the old rhyme : 

" March borrowed frae April 
Three days, and they were ill. 
The first o' them was wind and weet ; 
The next o' them was snaw and sleet ; 
The third o' them was sic a freeze 
That the birds' legs stuck to the trees." 

If the birds are not fast it must be because 
they have all got to cover. Nowhere any 
bare twig invites their perch. You will find 
them all ahuddle under eaves, in barns and 
hay-lofts wherever they could safely bide 
through the pelting of this pitiless storm. 

Do but look down the avenue. Long 
boughs either hand roof it over with crjjstal 
fret-work ; the road winds through a floor 
of beaten silver, and fence and hedge drip 
silver fringe. 

Grass-land and wheat show emerald, set 
under seas of glass. Orchard boughs bend 
low in grottoes such as Elfland never knew. 
Sunrise flings through and over it an in- 



32 

tolerable splendor. Especially here in the 
waste-land, where weed and brier and tall, 
feathery sedge are bent, tossed, writhen, 
curved each and all aglisten in armor of 
ice. You have no heart to shatter aught so 
exquisite. The cunningest workman, even 
of the gnomes, could not shape such crystal 
plumes as overlie the yellow sedge. Truly 
it is gold bediamonded. Do not grudge the 
poor grass its brief splendor. Twelve o' the 
clock in sunshine will see this Cinderella of 
the fields once again in rags and tatters. 

Leave the field-path unbroken, and skirt 
the forest's edge, climbing slow and pain- 
fully to the hill-top at cost of many falls. 
Thence the clear valley unrolls before you 
as a scroll. To eastward what glow, what 
splendor, what powdering of rainbows, as 
the sun swims slow above the sea of crystal 
boughs. Now and again one snaps, topples 
sharply for a breath's space, then crashes 
to its fall. Excess of splendor is perilous 
always. My word for it, the trees will be 
joyful at end of this gorgeous masking. 

Turn your dazzled gaze to westward. 
There the pale, dipping verge throws up 
a crystalline forest-rim, with high-lights of 
gray lustre, with swimming space-shadows, 
to accent this world alight. Overhead is a 



33 

sky blue, brilliant, .intense, hard. March 
winds have blown out of it all hint of soft- 
ness. Not one lingering, trailing cirrus 
deepens the cold east's pallid rose. The 
wings of the morning have borne them all 
away. Far, far to southward, maybe, they 
distil in gentle showers upon orange and 
palm and pine forgetting, amid such wealth 
of tropic bloom, this temperate earth, bedia- 
monded as for a bridal the bridal of flower 
and sun. 

Through the intervening valley the creek 
roars at flood a water-giant, turbid, yel- 
low, too strong for the fettering of frost. 
Look well at its fringing trees. Elm, ash, 
maple, listened all to the traitor, wind, 
while he wooed soft so soft! See them 
all atassel. Their green, thready bloom 
droops piteously indeed. A little while, 
and it will lose its crystal bravery, to fall 
earthward, dark and dank, leaving behind 
it no memory of fruit. 

Here, tree and field show heavy-white with 
rime. So much they owe to the brawling 
water. The last touch of this enchantment, 
the earliest sun shall make it to vanish. 
Now he is risen to half the zenith's arc. 
On every hand you hear snapping, crash- 
ing, tinkling. The sleet is breaking up. 
3 



34 

The crusted earth lies all a watery quag- 
mire. Even the sharp hill-slopes run sheet- 
ed water. The hollows gather to themselves 
rills and pools as clear as when they fell over 
the world, the Ice-Queen's silvern tears. 

And winds o' March do blow blow out 
of all the heavens. To this sunny lee slope 
comes one, soft as the breath of May. With 
what light touch he lifts the slender hazel, 
at morning bent to earth. How gentle 
his spiriting to the wind-flowers at its root. 
Pale, broken, dainty darlings ! you blos- 
somed but to die. The pert, small blue 
sweet-heart laughs you quite to scorn. 
Even before you it starred the hill-side with 
its clustered crosses. When the sleet fell, 
hard and heavy, it sank to the shelter of its 
mossy bed. Now that sun-rays lie warm, it 
springs up, shouting with all its tiny voices, 
" Here am I look at me. Love me the 
spring's fair, first, spoiled child." 

Leave far this piping flower, this puling 
breeze. Come stand in clear space, where 
all around, about, a west wind resonant, 
conquering, vivifying plays on the forest- 
organ the anthem of resurrection. Under 
trees themselves you shall not half so hear 
its sweep and swell, its rolling diapason, 
its chant of rejoicing, its trumpeting of vie- 



35 



tory. It owns full power of the air. Low 
as the earth it comes, up to heaven it 
reaches, a solid, moving wall, mighty as it 
is invisible. 

So it blows and blows rushing, rending, 
drinking up the waters from the face of 
earth as chaff before fire. Sometimes it 
veers to north. Then frost binds hard, and 
bites. For the most part it keeps constant 
in the west, and saith not the proverb, 

" Wind i' the west 
Weather at the best." 

Certainly the farmers think so. Witness 
the ploughman's proverb, "A peck of March 
dust is worth a king's ransom." 

For when March dust flies seed time goes 
so well, so merrily, as to promise full har- 
vest. Under the waxing sun lambs skip 
and play across the greening grass. There 
may be gray days, sharp and bleak, yet all 
the world thrills to feel that winter is be- 
hind. By and by the clouds rift lighten 
grow high and white and woolly at last 
melt out of sight. Winds lull to the merest 
breath you say, rejoicing, "It is April 
weather." 

Have a care. Who knows what treachery 
may lurk under that specious seeming. Who 



36 

knows what cloud is marshalling, with light- 
ning's red wrath in its breast ; in what cave 
o' the winds Eolus, the father of them, is 
tempering his cyclones for a dance of 
death. At morning, maybe, you wake into 
a hot stillness that clings, stifles, till you 
gasp and pant. Overhead is no fold or 
break. Everywhere a dense, watery opacity 
with no saving downpour. The hours go 
leaden-footed all life is afaint, with bur- 
dened breathing in this close, stolid air. 

Presently a sobbing gasp comes through 
it another another. A fitful wind blows 
out from the lowest cloud. A fine, sharp, 
crackling swell comes with it. The weather- 
wise sniff it, to say, shaking the head, 
"Thunder in the air." Soon it smites the 
ear pealing, booming, sullen afar off. 
The low clouds stir drift languidly over- 
head, letting fall a few big drops. Above 
them, sailing against, in the southwest, a 
cloud shape comes, born with the speed of 
light. All its greenish-copper hue is seamed 
with white, darting fire. Wind-torn, thunder- 
riven, it leaps along the earth rising, fall- 
ing, rending, roaring, grinding to powder 
whatever withstands its wrath ; pelting all 
the sweet new world with big sheets of rain, 
with stinging broadsides of hail ; flinging 



37 

balls of fire to furrow anew the bare, level 
ploughland. 

Quickly it comes and goes, a very scourge 
of the air, leaving ruth and ruin along its 
narrow path. A chill wind and watery sighs 
after it pale and perfidious, a mourner 
secretly rejoicing in the havoc he is set to 
bewail. At last he blows him out ; the sun 
shines, and green things uplift to his ray 
their bruised heads. Long before high 
summer they will have no memory even of 
hurt. But the great oak, wrenched away 
from the root, shall lie still and stark, with 
no hope of resurrection. 




A LITTLE EARTH 



*OME tread with me the measure 
of the fields. The year, the 
world, has but just smiled into 
full waking. A long, slant 
splendor of early sun-rays gold- 
tips the budding trees. Through the wind- 
less air smoke rises in thin, blue columns, 
to waver and fade out in the light-flooded 
sky. 

Now, truly, 

" Jocund day 
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain-top." 

Listen the joyful noise of mating birds, of 
tinkling waters arace to the far sea, of hoof- 
beat, of chain-clank, and loud-throated sing- 
ing, as ploughmen troop to turn the steamy 
earth. 

Verily a heartsome task. See the bright 
share slip along, mellow mould crumbling 
away from it to lie loose and fresh behind. 
What fine, vital breath it has ? Clean, uplift- 
ing, truly the odor of immortality. Older 



39 

than time it shall endure till the rocks burn 
and waste, the heavens be rolled away as a 
scroll. Likewise full of contrast. Here in 
the lowland the fat, black earth, full of 
rounded, unctuous pebbles, has a fine, moist 
breath subtile, suggestive that somehow 
brings with it the noise of shaken reeds. 
Rightly enough, too. Less than a hundred 
years back all this level was arustle with 
tall, green cane. Deer fed fat on it, bear 
lay in wait to make prey of fawn or doe 
mayhap also themselves to perish, spiked 
through with antler-thrusts from a stag of ten. 
Settlers came in by twos, by threes built 
cabins of round poles to shelter them while 
they cut roads through the cane. The first 
white owner of these acres made a path to 
his next neighbor's, eleven miles away, and 
either hand, along every foot of it, the reeds 
upraised a green, whispering rampart, so 
high that a man on horseback was com- 
pletely hidden. The few highwaymen of 
that time by turns blessed and cursed the 
cane-brake. If it hid themselves, their vic- 
tims, past finding, it likewise made flight 
impossible, save by known and beaten ways, 
communication across even the shortest 
space a matter so difficult as to be always 
full of risk. 



40 

They were rarely enviable folk, those pio- 
neers. For the most part they left behind 
the pine and sand of the seaboard for this 
rich in-lying valley. A true land of prom- 
ise, flowing with milk and honey, it must 
have seemed to them. No wonder when 
the first venturous spirits went back over 
the mountains the fame of it lured a-many 
to enter in and possess. 

What crystal clearness of streams, whose 
banks bore never a furrow what spread of 
forest, unmarred by axe or fire what ver- 
durous glades what wealth of vine, and 
flower, and nut, and fruit ? Beyond all, the 
cane so tall, so thick, so slender whisper- 
ing to every babbling wind all the promise, 
the fulness, of the rich soil at its root. It 
is the gracefulest plant alive. Do but close 
your eyes and try to see all adown this long, 
long furrow a myriad ghosts standing thick 
and tall, all slender and glistening, breaking 
out in sharp green leaves along their taper 
length, tremulous, sighing, all ashiver at the 
wind's least touch. What harmony sighs 
through it ! Here is your true Pan's pipe. 
Syrinx is not dead, nor shall be forgotten. 
While one of these green things endures' 
the myth shall have power. Life, reading 
its riddle, shall understand that out of the 



heart's desire, turned aside from fulfilment, 
shall come music and sweetness far beyond 
love. 

Come now to the fallow, first upturned last 
fall. It had lain three years in clover. See 
the big, yellow -white roots of it standing 
topsy-turvy all over it. So the great plough 
thrust and left them, often with but the 
tiniest hold. Never a one, though, but has 
made the best of it has kept life spite of 
wind and snow now sends up its sprays of 
round, gray-hearted leaves. How fresh and 
cheery they look, all dim with the fine 
spring dew. Truly it is pitiful that the big 
share needs must crush and overwhelm the 
brave green buds so gallantly upthrust. 
Lie soft upon them, gentle Earth ! You 
must live by such doing, such undoing, for 
you give out a fragrance finer than all the 
flowers. 

Drinking it in long draughts, the scent of 
the lowland fades quite out of memory. 
What is all its light blackness beside this 
brown earth so mellow, so alive to the foot 
smelling to heaven of summer and heavy 
harvest. The plough-beasts even snuff it 
gratefully. They draw almost at the trot, 
round corners without lagging, as though 
they knew what it all meant bursting cribs, 



42 

and winter days full-fed against the cold. 
Nor stock nor stone stays progress here. 
The plough speeds so steady, a bare touch 
on one handle keeps the furrow straight 
and true. Round, round it goes in ever- 
lessening compass. The land will be done 
long ere the sun is down. If rain holds 
away the week's end will see all the field 
fresh-ploughed. 

Then how sorry the birds will be. In 
flocks, in clouds almost, they settle in each 
new furrow, a scant length behind the 
plough, hopping, fluttering, chirping, pecking 
eagerly at all the luckless creeping things 
whose deep lairs have suffered earthquake. 
A motley crowd indeed ! Here be crow 
and blackbird, thrush and robin, song-spar- 
row, bluebird, bee-martin, and wren. How 
they peep and chirp, looking in supercilious 
scorn one at the other, making short flights 
over each other's backs to settle with hov- 
ering motion nearer, ever nearer, the plough. 
Who shall say theirs is not the thrift, the 
wisdom, of experience. How else should 
they know thus to snatch dainty morsels 
breakfast, truly, on the fat of the land, for 
only the trouble of picking it up ? All day 
they follow, follow. It is the idle time now, 
when they are not under pressure of nest- 



43 

making. Though mating is past, yet many 
a pretty courtship goes on in the furrow. 
Birds are no more constant, nor beyond 
temptation, than are we, the unfeathered of 
bipeds. 

Duels, too fierce encounters betwixt 
aerial warriors all aruffle, dashing, full tilt, 
against one another, ready for all violence 
within compass of beak and claw. That 
tetchy fellow, the bluebird, is ready to fight 
if another does but nod polite approval of 
his love. Redbird and wren are likewise 
pugnacious even gentle Robin Redbreast 
develops an amazing stomach for quarrel. 
Master Blackbird is wiser far. If his dame 
goes flirting off with a neighbor, all he does 
is to sleek and preen him till the green fire 
comes out over all his dusky coat, sail frol- 
icly down the furrow, seize a fat white grub, 
and fly with it to some high place, chatter- 
ing triumph over his prize. Madame, hear- 
ing, flies to him upon the instant, there is 
coy reconciliation over the feast, and both 
go back scatheless to search for another 
tidbit. 

Most like they choose a new field one 
where the lean earth has for years run to 
waste. Bush, brake, brier, cover the face of 
it. Here no plough can pass till steel and 



44 

fire have made way for it. Once the earth 
is ready for turning there is a feast indeed 
for winged things. Though the cold, wet 
clay affords never an earth-worm it has 
rich store of bugs, grubs, beetles, larvae. 
Not one of the huge clods but holds a 
Thanksgiving dinner for the feathered for- 
agers. It has been for. so long their city 
of refuge they have nested there, shel- 
tered them against cold and heat they are 
full of twittering surprise over finding it also 
a happy-hunting-ground. 

What pungent, savage odor bitter, cling- 
ing comes up from the furrow the smell 
of wet clay, underlying the sharp scent of 
bruised sassafras and brier-root. The plough 
has torn up both by thousands, by ten thou- 
sands. Steel of best temper, and sharp 
though it be, three stout beasts abreast have 
much ado to drag through the tangle under- 
earth. How low their heads, how steady 
their strain against the collar. Round about 
the field they go once, twice, thrice fling- 
ing barriers of damp sod 'twixt the hedge- 
row and the wide inner wilderness. 

What a jungle it is brier and bramble, 
sassafras and thorn, furzy fleeces of dry 
golden-rod, over and through all a masking 
of yellow sedge. Through the daylight the 



45 

field-hands will work at the hedge-row. The 
crooked fence-corners are the nursery of all 
vagrants. Therein you will find cheek-by- 
jowl peach and persimmon, woodbine from 
the garden, and grape o' the woods ; young 
oaks, seedling apples indeed an epitome 
of all that grows and blows. Or wild or 
tame, they must give room. Axe, bill-hook, 
brier-scythe, flash in and out the tangle is 
tossed this way and that, soon to be piled 
in great matted heaps well across the en- 
circling furrows. 

Sundown shall not more than see the work 
well done. The field lies crisp and dry, 
rustling desolately in the freshening wind. 
It seems a waste place all predestinate 
one whose reclamation was always and al- 
together hopeless. The belting, sinuous 
furrows seem to say aloud, " Man has wres- 
tled with the wilderness and got the worst 
of it." 

Wait a little space. See, there to wind- 
ward, a small, leaping flame, carefully kin- 
dled. A torch-bearer darts away from it, 
another, another. Almost as you draw 
breath, a line of fire upflashes, climbs, 
spreads, wavers, goes roaring down the 
field's breadth. See the pure red flame 
leap thirty feet in air, writhe, bend, toss, 



4 6 

curl back in crested billows. It licks up 
sedge and weed and brier all, indeed, save 
a few stout stems that stand, crackling 
ghosts and stark, in the black earth behind 
it. Tramp stoutly over it the blackness 
is but light embers. Follow the flame, 
keeping always well to windward. See 
bramble and saw-brier change to writhing, 
fiery serpents. Hear the hollow weed-stems 
fire at the flame a fairy fusillade. 

Mark, too, that tall, dead tree, standing 
lone and branchless, far at the lower edge. 
Flame has not yet touched its root, but the 
top sends out smoke, glows red in the gath- 
ering dusk. The wind bore a spark to it, 
and kindled it as by magic in the soft, rot- 
ting wood. Now the fire has reached the 
foot of it how it leaps- and roars, licking 
up bark and sap-wood, making the poor tree 
a pillar of fire ! All night it shall stand 
hissing, glowing a fountain of red sparks. 
At morning it will lie prone on Mother 
Earth a blackened skeleton, yet with fire 
still in its heart. 

Now the racing flame curls over the 
brush -heaps the last enemy; here shall 
be battle - royal. As the issue is joined 
what lurid columns leap up ! dancing, wa- 
vering, drawing one to another. The merry, 



47 



mad Wind loves the dance. See him blow- 
ing in gusty joy scattering coal and brand, 
trying with all his might to send his scarlet 
sweetheart across the saving girdle of fur- 
rows. Once she was in the wood, where 
the heaped leaves lie so dry under dead 
brush, over rotting timber, the revel might 
go on and on end who knows where ? 

The field-hands know his tricks. They 
stand sharply at guard, stamping out, beat- 
ing back, each thready flame that seeks to 
cross the barrier. Deep into the dusk they 
wait, scattering coals from the brush-heaps, 
making certain that no spark has lodged 
in the fence itself or in the wood beyond. 
Stars come out whitely overhead ; dew-fall 
begins ; the smoke of the burning drifts 
away to the lowlands. All about you 
breathes the keen, aromatic scent of half- 
burned sassafras sticks. One stout fellow 
stoops to pull up a fragrant loosened root, 
but stops as a wild cry comes ringing from 
the swamp. You listen with all your ears. 
At last a slow voice says, " Spring must be 
come in earnest. Hear the whippoorwill." 




WHERE THE BEE SUCKS 



S the good St. Valentine a wiz- 
ard ? What magic is this he 
hath wrought out of leafless 
boughs ? Madame Plum-tree, 
dwarf and thorny, wears pow- 
dering of pearl from top to toe. The La- 
dies Peach blush pinker than the dawn to the 
tiniest tip of all their flexile twigs, Dowa- 
ger-Duchess Pear hath veiled her in white 
lace, and pert Mademoiselle Cherry is all 
atangle with green-white buds. 

They are not weather-wise these poor 
folk for all their rank and worth. They 
little dream that, near two weeks back, Mas- 
ter Ground-hog crept out for a look at 
things chiefly his own shadow, could he 
see it ? thus to forecast if spring were late 
or early. He did see a shadow sharp, 
black, well-defined. The sun shone treach- 
erous-bright that day. With a snort of con- 
tempt for such fair pretence, Master Ground- 
hog crept back to his hole for six weeks 



49 

longer of napping. If thick cloud had cov- 
ered the sun he would instead have gone 
ranging abroad for a meal of fresh grass- 
roots and early buds. 

For he is wise in the unwrit ways of wind 
and weather wise enough not to trust the 
fickle south wind, the all -too -ardent sun. 
In his shadow he reads snow and sleet, 
cold wind, nipping frost, that he has no 
mind to endure, when it is given him to lie 
snug, sleeping on to the spring's warm 
height. A churl he must be, for all his 
wisdom else surely he might whisper a 
warning to these believing trees. Perhaps, 
though, silence is the wiser, the better. If 
they heard and heeded, what lack for all 
the bees. 

Hear the drone of them ; see them flash- 
ing, darting in and out, winging away full- 
laden to the hive ; hanging, deliciously 
adrowse, in the heart of pink peach -flow- 
ers. What wreathy bloom it is, crowded so 
thick along each budded stalk. If only 
the honey- gatherer could suck and store 
the odor of it, what nectar might compare, 
though served by Hebe's hand? A fine, 
warm, almond scent, it clings and abides. 
The falling blossom has richer scent than 
the fresh one. Richer color, too deep, 
4 



50 

vivid almost a crimson scarlet in place of 
the delicate pale pinkness so rare and fine. 

A generous flower, too not hoarding 
niggardly its sweets. You may see, taste 
even, the clear, glistering honey -drop at 
bottom of its cup. What wonder bees haunt 
the orchard so long as one flower remains. 
What wonder, too, the treasure-trove borne 
thence is next to the sweet from raspberry 
blossoms the richest, clearest, fairest -fla- 
vored of all honey. 

Madame Plum-tree, too, hath honey to 
match her thorns. Her fairy blossoms 
burst wide even earlier than her pink neigh- 
bor are rifled faint and fading, as the 
rosy beauties begin to peep from out their 
russet hoods. A fine, heartsome sweetness, 
too, has our lady of thorns. Not so subtile 
as the peach-scent, yet truly vernal one to 
call up to you memory of half-heard waters, 
of faint skies softly blue, the laugh and 
cooing of a little child. Curious, is it not, 
that aught so tender can be nourished with 
sap from so spiny a stem ? Does it not re- 
call the dear souls, known to us all, who 
mask with rough speech hearts gracious to 
the core ? 

Madame la Duchesse, for all her white be- 
dizenment, is scant of honey. So, too, her 



later plebeian congener, the apple, spite all 
her lavish bewilderment of buds. Both are 
sickish - sweet of scent a heavy, sullen 
odor that makes the low wind afaint. Go 
a little way off, and it is breath of Para- 
dise. Here, under thick-blossomed boughs, 
it makes you half gasp for breath. 

Not so the busy bees never so busy as 
in face of these many flowered small gains. 
See how sagely they pass the open, rifled 
flowerets, how eagerly they thrust them be- 
twixt unfolding petals to reach the un- 
touched heart. Some fly homeward, all 
powdered like courtiers of old days. They 
are heaping up pollen for bee-bread. Shortly 
there will be new broods vagrant swarms 
flying out to settle in brown, knotty, crawl- 
ing clusters on fence or tree. 

But first rough weather shall darken ; keen 
winds blow out of the sky ; all the orchard 
blossoms stand naked, shivering, acold. 
Not -one in the million of this white en- 
chantment, this rosy cloud, shall come to 
the fruit. Smitten of frost, sapless, withered, 
they shall fall unheeded, while green leaves 
laugh out under bright, wet April skies, and 
make the mournful boughs again to dance 
in sunshine. 

Then bees fly high, fly low far and high 



for forest sweets, near and low for spoil of 
the pastures. There dandelions uplift ten 
thousand small gold suns ; white clover, 
nun o' the sward, strings pearls along its 
green. Not yet is it at blossomy flood-tide. 
That comes later when the nun's big, lag- 
gard purple sister is bursting sparsely into 
flower. Then, indeed, is the short green 
turf mottled with white and gold. What 
sight outrivals a stretch of dewy sward, with 
sunshine flashing rainbows from its dia- 
monds, drawing sweets from its thick pow- 
dering of bloom ? May, merry month, shall 
spread such along all the sunny road-sides, 
and send to them hovering bees in winged 
clouds. 

There the bee sucks sucks from dawn to 
fall of dew unless, indeed, the raspberry 
thicket lures to its breast. The honey- 
bearers are wise after their kind. They 
know one clover-head, one dandelion, may 
drop, another springs in its stead, through 
weeks of sunshiny weather. And raspberry 
blossom endures for but a little space be- 
side yielding a honey for which Titania, 
queen of fairies, might sigh. What wonder 
how they choose in this embarrassment of 
riches? The thicket is vocal with their 
droning pipe. Some wing to it straight- 



53 

away from the hive, some the most part 
fly low across the grass, sipping now from 
this white chalice, now from that, nearer, 
ever nearer, till the last short flight sets 
them, half-sated, in the heart of some blos- 
som-clump, fine and green - fringed and 
thorny-stemmed indeed. 

Whoso has eaten of the fruit of such la- 
bors must wonder that the laborers, save 
under stress of hunger, can decline to any- 
thing so commercial and coarse-flavored as 
buckwheat. It is bee-pasturage of man's 
providing. The honey of it is fair to see 
rich and clear, and set in fine, yellow-white 
comb ; but, ah ! the savor of it a heavy, 
cloying sweet, with the tang of artifice, in- 
stead of the sweet spontaneousness of Nat- 
ure's store. 

These rangers of the air lay wide spans 
under tribute. Nor vine, nor bush, nor 
weedy flower escapes them. Neither ripe 
fruit of any sort, once it begins to drip 
juice. They follow close upon the birds, 
and grow drunken often with juice of grape, 
or peach, or apple, or over - ripe berries. 
About wine-press or cider-mill they grow 
into tipsy loafers buzzing, swarming, crawl- 
ing, eager even to drown them in the rich- 
flavored floods. For ages the little, busy 



54 

bee has been the sum and pattern of indus- 
trious providence. Who knows if, after all, 
the model insect hath not at bottom a stra- 
tum of lazy savagery, that circumstance may 
develop in most human fashion. 




TREES ABLOSSOM 



AVE you a drop of gypsy blood ? 
Are you akin to the wood 
sprites ? Then come with me 
to my woodland. It is full of 
sombre light this March day. 
Upland the west wind makes billows of bare 
branches. Along the creeks and runnels 
he is shaking out green elm tassels and 
scarlet maple flowers. It is wonderful how 
even a tiny stream quickens vegetation. 
Here upon the edge of the sink-hole, where 
the spring branch goes underground, there 
is a scented snow of wild plum flowers all 
over the thicket, the slim redbud is all 
purple-pink, the iron-wood's long tassels 
fairly drip gold-dust, while a hundred yards 
away the same growths show only faintly 
swelled buds. On the mill-stream, a mile 
away, where the spring water again comes 
to light, the difference is even more marked. 
In the broad, deep valley the young oak 
leaves are as big as rabbits' ears. Truly 



56 

those are living waters that roll so clear at 
the roots. And what a sweet, subtle fra- 
grance loads all the air ! It comes only in 
earliest spring. There is the source of it, 
that smooth, gray-barked, shrubby tree, with 
trunk made up of curiously interlaced stems. 
It is entirely leafless, yet enveloped in a 
cloud of clustered white fringy blossoms. 
See how it bends over the water, dipping a 
long branch in the foamy eddy at its root. 
Does it not seem a forest Narcissus pining 
for its own lovely image ? Even to the ti- 
niest twig it is loaded with blossoms, but 
nothing comes of them. Nobody has ever 
yet found a seed, and there are but three 
trees in a county, the woodsmen all declare. 
Perhaps that is why it has not even a nick- 
name. When the leaves come out, three 
weeks after the blossoms, any but a woods- 
man would swear to the tree as a scrub 
hickory. The bark is as tough and stringy, 
the foliage of quite the same color, shape, 
and texture. 

For an early bow-pot, though, there is 
nothing like branches of its white flowers 
crowded against the yellow scarlet of 
swamp-maple blossoms. Put them in a big 
earthen jar ; no vase has room enough. Set 
it in your darkest corner, upon a carpet 



57__ 

of moss. Put ferns all around the base, 
and, if possible, get long sprays of cross 
vine to trail over the jar's edge, or to climb 
the wall back of it. Its green, stiff, waxy 
leaves, mottled with red and brown, give a 
needed shadow to the vivid flowers, and 
make up a true vernal harmony. Unless 
you can make some such use of them, leave 
the maple flowers to glorify their native 
swamp. Convention spoils them utterly. 
A vase suits them about as well as a dress- 
coat would a Seminole or Cherokee chief. 

Let alone always the sick-sweet redbud. 
It is well named Judas-tree. Not only does 
it stupefy the foolish early bees, but its sap 
makes the hand that plucks it itch and 
burn, and is almost as irritant as the cling- 
ing poison-oak. 

A little later, when dogwoods flower, you 
may come home with sheaves of bloom. 
Then it is throughout the South and West 
" corn-planting time," and homely folk say 
that the blossoming is an infallible " sign " 
for the harvest. If the flowers are few, 
corn will be " all nubbins, and few at that "; 
if the woods are white, cribs and barns will 
overflow. 

As a cut flower the dogwood has but one 
proper place namely, the fireplace. Stuck 



58 

in a box of wet sand overlaid with moss, 
the flat, white-starred branches make an 
ideal screen. Otherwhere it drops so quick- 
ly or is so stiffly ungraceful that it will prove 
only a vanity and vexation of spirit. That 
is, in its first estate. In October few things 
are more decorative than dogwood branches 
set thick with leaves and fairly aglow with 
clustered coral-red berries. Even after the 
leaves fall they are especially handsome, 
particularly when tacked flat against a plain 
gray or dull-blue wall. Both sugar and rock 
maples blossom before they leaf, and at the 
merest hint of spring. If the " sugar-tree " 
has been tapped it is two to four weeks late 
in blossoming. Otherwise its thick clusters 
of greenish-yellow fringe come out first of 
all. Oftener than not they are pelted with 
snow or wrapped in sleet before their course 
is run. 

Nut-trees are wiser. It is high May, full 
and splendid, before walnut and hickory 
fling out their plumes of green, and fill the 

forest with a 

" Cool, wild, bitter scent, 
Better than taint of rose or balm breath rare." 

It is strong, clean, uplifting. The breath 
of it clears the mind and strengthens the 
soul. If a trumpet call could be made 



59 

odorous it would smell as do these blos- 
soms. There is nothing in life so delight- 
ful as to lie prone upon warm grass under 
a big, spreading walnut, standing alone in 
acres of pasture-land, with May sun drip- 
ping gold through the quivering leaves, 
with cattle lowing all about, with birds 
nesting in the near thicket, and the scent 
of crushed catkins coining strong and sweet 
from your hands. 

The crab-apple is Dame Nature's para- 
dox ; one of those contradictions wherewith 
she delights slyly to confound us. For is 
not the blossom as sweet as the fruit is 
sour ? Is not the grace of branch and leaf 
offset by the prickliness of long thorns? 
Far beyond the hawthorn it is the true 
flower of May. It is as though creative 
power had gathered the dawn and the dew, 
the grace of rippling water, the sweetness 
of true love, and of them shaped these 
dainty, pink-flushed flowerets, then set and 
fenced them about with a 'hedge of thorns. 
Though we have hawthorn and haws, black 
and red galore, they cannot be named in 
the same day with the crab-apple. Indeed, 
there is but one blossom -tree that can 
that immortelle, the honey- locust. The 
man, the woman, who knows not, loves not, 



6o 



its pendulous white clusters and rich, sweet 
breath, is fit for treasons, stratagems, and 
spoils of the deepest dye. Few, even of its 
lovers, though, know what a hold it has on 
life. Stick down a twig, a bit of root, any- 
where, and behold, you have a tree, no 
matter what the environment. A Virginia 
planter once enclosed his calf lot with lo- 
cust posts mortised through and through, 
and locust poles fitted into the openings. 
By summer posts and rails were growing at 
a lively rate, and had made a hedge where 
only a fence was wanted. Another, whose 
door-yard was set with locusts, dug a well 
sixty feet deep, and got a bit of locust root 
out in the last spadeful of earth. Upon still 
another plantation, roots of the locust plant- 
ed by the pioneer owner two hundred years 
ago come up regularly each spring, in spite 
of a century of persistent grubbing. 

Park and street planting have quite vul- 
garized the buckeye. It keeps no bit of 
true sylvan flavor, but grows by time and 
rule, and blossoms to order. The magnolia, 
too, is commonplace away from its native 
woodland. The tulip-tree defies ornamental 
planting. It will grow strong and stately 
in the bottom, or cling stoutly to life upon 
the bare hill-sides, but does not take kindly 



6i 



to the haunts of men. It loves light soil 
and untrampled roots. Given those, it is 
magnificent. Without them it sickens and 
dies. None can know what a wealth of 
blossom truly means who has not stood in 
the wreathy top of a tulip-tree, looking down 
at the earth through twenty feet of flowers, 
and up to the sky through forty feet more. 
Late May is the season. The leaves are 
almost full-grown, the new twigs six inches 
long, and each one bending with the green 
and yellow cups. 

Linden and bass wood, persimmon and 
pawpaw, chestnut, willow, each in due sea- 
son furnishes sweets for the bee, scent 
for the breeze. Ash, sycamore, oaks, have 
blossoms, green and graceful, but lacking 
sweetness. 




GREEN FIELDS 

iHEY are civilization's hall- 
mark, and make you more in 
love with Mother Earth than 
even the wooing stateliness of 
woodland. Especially in May 
the " merrie month of May " when winds 
are all of balm, and the golden sunlight 
drips down through tender new leaves. The 
world is vocal then. All the birds sing 
love. Each little runnel tinkles a fairy 
chime. Sound of all sorts takes on a 
curious vital resonance, and nowhere more 
than in the green fields, the breadths of 
grain and grass. There is a story in each 
wind that blows through their green, small 
spears. If you do but have the fine ear to 
hear, you shall learn wondrous things. As 
truly as all flesh is grass, there is a marvel- 
lous individuality in the things which sup- 
ply the staff of life. Rye, for example, is 
the grain of paradox. Plunge into this 
field of it, a breast-high sea of gray-green, 



still damp with dew, though it is ten o' the 
clock. No wonder the ballad heroine 

" Draiglet a' her petticoatie 
Coming thro' the rye." 

The stay and solace of high latitudes, it 
holds moisture in a fashion that is simply 
amazing. This it is which enables it to 
grow rank and tall upon soil where less 
hardy grain would attain but a few starve- 
ling inches. Indeed it is, in some sort, the 
savage among cereals. There is more than 
a suggestion of spear and arrow in blade 
and beard and long, lithe straw. Withal, it 
is graceful beyond words. Now the heads, 
just bursting out of sheath, are level with a 
tall man's shoulders. By harvest they will 
bend and droop above his head. To walk 
through it then will be a plunge into green 
gloom, with the stalks, crushed by the tread, 
writhing serpentwise at foot. Light winds 
barely ripple the heavy heads. When it 
comes out of the west, a lion of the air, 
there are billows and heavings almost to 
match a stormy sea. For minutes the whole 
breadth of it will be flattened as with a heavy 
roller. As the gust upcurls, the tough stalks 
writhe upward too, and dance in the teeth of 
lesser gales ; that is, if the seed fell among 
stones or a holding clay. 



Rich soil is fatal to this democrat of grains. 
It grows there, to be sure, in a weak, perfunc- 
tory fashion, but a moderate rain will lodge 
it hopelessly, and the grain itself is spongy 
and without substance. At the best it is not 
a tempting food-stuff. Rye-bread is bread 
of bitterness unless marvellously well dis- 
guised. Yet it keeps many millions from 
hunger millions, too, who without it would 
inevitably suffer famine. Under favorable 
conditions a single seed may reproduce it- 
self two-thousandfold. In addition, it thrives 
in weather conditions that forbid the ripen- 
ing of other grain. On the whole, this beard- 
ed grain deserves more than well of a large 
moiety of humanity. 

So, too, do oats, which Dr. Johnson de- 
fined as " a grain that in England is fed to 
horses ; in Scotland, to men." The sneer 
was well parried by the indignant Scot's que- 
ry, " An' whae will ye find sic horses and sic 
men ?" Nowadays, though, the land of cakes 
and heather is not singular in its consump- 
tion of " the canny aitmeal." It has pretty 
well all the world's breakfast-table for its 
own. But there clings always to the grow- 
ing plant more than a suggestion of moor 
and mist. Mark the cool blue-green of these 
blades tossing well up beside your knee. 



65 

The field is just "in the boot." A little 
space, and you shall see all over it the plu- 
my, pale, pendulous pyramids of slender, 
thickly-husked grain. Even more than rye, 
it needs coolness and moisture. A week of 
drought as it is heading, and the yield will 
not pay for harvesting. Ripe, it is the tru- 
est gold of the fields. All other straw and 
stubble are pale and commonplace in con- 
trast to its glowing yellow. A curious fact 
about the grain is its deterioration in new 
climatic conditions. The best Scotch oats 
imported weigh nearly fifty pounds to the 
bushel. The American product from such 
seed sinks in two years to about thirty-two. 
Now the wheat-field spreads you out its 
hundred emerald acres. Here is no hint of 
blue or gray, but that intense verdure that 
best symbolizes the time of growth and 
blowth. The grain is just fairly headed 
waist-high, and all atoss in the mid -day 
breeze. When the sun rose, each green ear 
bent daintily earthward, dew-diamonded at 
every point. Now they stand straight, and 
feel ponderable as they brush the passing 
hand. Note the pale, infinitesimal flower- 
ets at tip of each bract. The whole field is 
in bloom. Pouring rain to-day would scant 
the harvest by half. For upon these small 

5 



66 



flowers, no bigger than a pin's head, and 
hung on a stalk you can scarce see with 
the naked eye, depends fructification. Let 
them be rudely removed, and there will be 
only chaff and emptiness, howsoever fair the 
head. The danger will pass quickly. Next 
week the kernel will be in the milk, with 
only rust to assail it. That may come if 
there are hot days and still nights, with warm 
showers between. In a night, as it were, 
the red fungus forms on blade and stalk, 
and sucks up the wholesome juices that 
should go to feed the head. Then farewell 
the hope of " buckshot " grain. There may 
be quantity, but quality will surely be lack- 
ing. It is pitiful to see failure overtake 
what promised so fairly. 

More than pitiful if it comes in shape of 
the army -worm. His visitation is infre- 
quent once in twenty years or so. When 
he does come no green thing escapes. He 
devastates impartially garden hedge -row, 
corn-field, and thicket; wheat and grass 
land, though, are his favorite forage. He 
comes without warning, attacks in solid 
phalanx, and moves through the field in 
writhing mass. If the wheat is not head- 
ed, it never will be. The field is eaten 
bare. If the straw has strength to turn his 



6 7 



teeth, he strips it of all leaves, even to the 
uppermost, and drops down to find another 
stalk. Once in a field, there is no cure for 
him. A deep trench, into which he may 
fall, is the only prevention of him. Twice 
a day it must be cleaned out, or the bodies 
of the fallen invaders would make a bridge 
for the enemy behind. He is a dull gray- 
ish-brown fellow, stupid and harmless to 
look at, yet Goth nor Vandal ever left be- 
hind him a more desolate world than he. 

We will barely skirt the meadow where 
clover and the grasses spread out their ten- 
der mosaic. Tangled grass is the mower's 
abomination, and footsteps must mat and 
tangle the lush greenery that lies knee-deep 
all over it. At the branch we will pause and 
drink long draughts of its blossomy breath, 
as well as mark the pink marsh-mallows 
fringing the water's edge, or pluck a cluster 
of the wild hydrangea. It is curious how 
the shrub clings to its native spot, maybe a 
hundred years after the sheltering woodland 
has been cut away. As we make choice 
from its wealth of bloom, a soft wind stirs, 
and the whole world sings. "Rejoice," it 
says "rejoice and be glad, O mortal ! that 
God gives life, and lends sunshine and green 
fields to sweeten it." 




A MOON O' MAY 



jOULD you know all the glory, 
the glamour, of it ? Then watch 
with me the rising, the going 
down, thereof. It is a full 
moon, big and round, dripping 
silver in long bars over this vernal earth. 
How dark the horizon lies the deep, in- 
tense black of lush new leafage, soft and 
dense so dense, indeed, it drinks up the 
soft gray twilight. Sunset is two hours 
past. All over the sky a tremulous lumi- 
nance makes paler the radiant stars. The 
glory of the sun, the glory of the moon, 
reach up from west and east to flood the 
sweet heavens with this dusk, tender shining. 
The heavens that bend so near. If you 
could but reach the tallest tree-top, surely 
the hand might pluck these fine stars from 
their courses bend them to human pur- 
pose, to human will. Underneath them, 
what balm breathes out smell of the earth, 
and grass and flowers underlaid with the 



6Q 

cool dew -scent. How white the jasmine's 
stars gleam through the dusk ; how ghostly- 
fair the tall, gold-dusted lilies. The south 
wind hath sighed him to sleep, drugged with 
their heavy sweet. Surely Circe herself 
wrought never enchantment so potent. All 
the night through he will sleep nor dream, 
nor stir. 

Now the east brightens glows to flame. 
Up and up a slow moon swims, a blush upon 
her, cleaving with silver lances the thick, 
low, earthy air. What glimmering tall shad- 
ow streams out over the fields, vague, gro- 
tesque a very Harlequin of shades, patched 
here or there or yonder with flares of pale 
new light. So pale, indeed, you can but 
barely trace it across the dew-dim grass. 

Swiftly, swiftly it brightens. The shad- 
ows deepen, shorten, grow sharp of outline. 
See how the young corn-rows mark moon 
dials all over their smooth fields. Eleven 
o' the clock by it the moon stands at quar- 
ter stars are faint and pale. What light- 
flood pours through the clear valley, turn- 
ing all to silver the tall, unrippled grass. 
Wheatland lies dark to blackness. Its still, 
deep, heavy-headed verdure is too robust to 
borrow the moonshine tint. Elder-flowers 
show spectral in the hedge-rows. Hedge- 



roses pale to the ghost of their morning 
hue. Old-man's-beard wears the silver of 
age, and vagrant, blossomy briers wave at 
you wands of pearl. 

Hearken the deep night's voices. The 
swamp sends out a rumble of distant croak- 
ing, the wood a shrilling of tree-toads from 
all its thousand boughs. There is crying of 
whippoorwills on every hand swish of their 
wings, too, dark and heavy, as in wheeling 
flight they circle from out the wood. "Whip- 
poor-will! Whip-poor-will!" the cry of them, 
goes pealing through this dim, drowsing 
world. There is heart-break in it, longing, 
passion, a wild call for justice, a fine note 
of despair. It chills you, thrills you, spite 
the toad's merry undertone, the frog's deep 
double-bass. It is a singing of death and 
silence. What though the singer be a clown 
on wings, who shall listen without tremor 
of soul, here in the midnight fields, his 
weird, low, wailing note ? 

The climbing moon lies white, straight 
overhead. There is no more darkness save 
underneath the trees. What tense, black 
silhouettes of all their leafy mass lie, sharp 
and vivid, along the wet, cool grass. Mid- 
night has struck, and still the south wind 
sleeps. And still the lulling flower-breath 



drifts, drifts to the dreamers of earth and 
straight they cry out for a joy that is half 
pain. Heart of the spring-time, soul of the 
summer, is in it. What wonder if they who 
breathe it go momently to that undiscov- 
ered land, where the days of our years are 
made young. 

One o' the clock. The moon is "wester- 
ing sharply. Croaking, shrilling, have died 
away the whippoorwill calls but afar and 
faint. This might be the enchanted island 
with the princess asleep for a hundred years, 
so still, so stirless, it lies all in the fair, 
white night. A ghost might sure walk un- 
challenged. But no, a cock crows cheerly. 
If spirits there be abroad, they must troop 
them home to the grave. Is that truly a 
ghost drifting up from the eastward swale ? 
A white, thin, vaporous swirl ; what well- 
bred shade could ask a properer housing? 
Now another upcurls yet another. Dawn 
will find good store of mist lying low upon 
the tree-tops to redden at his kiss. 

A sound wakes in the trees the mad- 
dest, merriest, most trancing note. The 
mocking-bird is singing to his new mate 
the fulness of life and love the joy of nest- 
ing-time. A little while, and he shall make 
all the night vocal flood it with melody 



from dusk to dawn. A bird in the wood's 
edge echoes his fine, clear note. Soon a 
dozen will be singing nor pause till the 
sun arise. 

Listen, open-hearted, to their fair accord. 
What king can command sucli fine harmony 
as wells through these silent trees ? The 
tricksy singers pour out for you every sweet 
note of wood or field. Surely the nightin- 
gale must hide her head before them, the 
upward-soaring lark sink down from heaven 
to listen amazed to this richer rendering of 
his love-note to the sun. 

Now the singers call with the note of 
doves. Now it is the oriole's song that 
goes ringing through moon and dew. Now 
a strain, clear as the swell of Elfland trum- 
pets breaking, dropping, a rain of silver 
notes like small, sweet bells jangled in time 
and tune. Lay it carefully away in memory 
it is the mocking-bird's own song. That 
he borrows other notes is pure wantonness 
as of him who having giant's strength must 
use it like a giant. 

The May moon rides at quarter. Three 
o' the clock and all about cocks crowing 
loud and clear. The western heaven is all 
one wide, blue splendor. Low in the dark- 
ened east the world's rim faintly lightens. 



73 

Here has been no night only a clear, white 
shining. Yet the new day shall rise in 
power, and fling lavish golden largess down 
on the teeming earth; shall give and take 
away for sunlight and waking breeze, the 
dew, the stillness, the clinging breath of 
flowers. Even now a faint air stirs. A 
pink east blushes to scorn a paling west. 
All the sweet birds wake to singing. The 
east glows bright and brighter. The great 
sun leaps to view, and clasps and shelters 
in his arms of light the laggard moon o' 
May. 




IN A RIOTOUS GARDEN 



)T belongs to my neighbors, the 
wise women. There are two 
of them each tall and gaunt, 
with more than a suspicion of 
gray beard on her chin. One 
looks at you through keen blue eyes, from 
out a face all tanned and wrinkled. The 
other is flat-nosed, thick-lipped, with shiny 
black skin, running smooth as satin up to 
her crown of white wool. Nominally, they 
are mistress and maid. Really, they are 
friends, comrades occasionally enemies. 

This, the garden, is their pride. To keep 
and to dress it, at once a duty and a joy. 
It lies faintly aslope, to southward of the 
square log -house that has trumpet -vine 
climbing either big rock chimney, to wave 
scarlet arms in every wind that blows. A 
hop-vine clambers one side the rough porch. 
Wild purple wistaria runs rampant over the 
rough hood shading the back door. You 
go out from it to a narrow path, beaten 



75 

smooth and hard through the short, velvety 
grass. 

The garden lies four-square inside tall, 
ragged palings. Once, mayhap a long, 
long time ago it had some semblance of 
walk and border some due arrangement of 
its garnered wealth. A trellised arbor goes 
straight away from the sagging gate to a 
curious green wall at the other end. Grnpe- 
vines sprawl over the rough frame work 
not clipped and pruned to the vineyard's 
niggard length, but wreathen, riotous, creep- 
ing, climbing along roof and wall, hanging 
there in their season long trails of leaf and 
blossom and clustered sweet fruit. 

How fair it shows in the sun all pinky- 
brown, all blackly-purple, all as green and 
clear as a mermaid's eyes hanging so 
thick under the roof of leaves. The wise 
women are generous in their season. Not 
only may you eat your fill, but pluck gen- 
erous handfuls to carry away. Presently 
you see that they can well afford to be. 
Coming out on the green wall it turns all 
to tossing spears a poor, small cane-brake, 
kept* partly for use, partly for sentiment. 
The wise woman remembers her childhood, 
when cane covered the land. Between times 
of gathering simples and going abroad to 



76 

heal, she sits weaving at her loom so needs 
store of reeds for quills. Here at their 
foot she stuck slips of all vines. They have 
rooted, thriven lustily, and hang fair, rich 
clusters all over and through the green, sigh- 
ing wall. 

Part it lightly and step within , let the lithe, 
stiff stems close all upon you a fairy prison 
shutting you quite away from the guide who 
stands outside scarce two yards away. 

Peaches, too, the garden boasts scatter- 
ed trees of the Indian sort, sweet and fla- 
vorous as love, bloodily red as murder. Yet 
to see it but in season of fruit is to lose, far 
and away, its best charm. Come, tread with 
me its round under fair spring skies, when 
peaches have dropped flower, grapes hang 
i' the bud. Look up as you pass the gate. 
Either hand a big mock-orange leans to kiss 
its mate, arching overhead a bower of thick 
white bloom. What curious, shrubby vine 
climbs over it, dropping on every hand its 
fine, long arms, so lightly graceful, so thick- 
sown all their length with tiny leaf and 
blossom ? " Youth - and - age willow," black 
Daphne tells you, nodding sagely as' she 
shows you that never a fresh purple flower 
comes out but a faded one peers sorrow- 
fully from the same foot-stalk. 



77 

Truly, this garden needs a guide-book it 
is so delightfully unmethodical, so full of 
curious things. Black Daphne knows it by 
heart. For the most part it is of her plant- 
ing. That is why you see white lilac plumes 
atoss quite in middle of a clear, sunlit space. 
She loves the flower, and had no mind that 
it should be dwarfed or starved by rougher, 
more robust growths. Purple lilac ; pinky, 
flowering almond, as daintily artificial as a 
Dresden-China shepherdess; stubbly scar- 
let pomegranate ; big, overgrown, conceited 
snowball she has massed all together at 
one side, to struggle as they will for existence. 

She is tender of sweet-scented things. 
Calycanthus stands full and fair in the 
onion beds' middle. Honeysuckles red, 
pink, yellow, white wave, garland - wise, 
each in its separate place, afar from other 
root. So, too, do the roses all June's 
hardy myriad. Now they are but tangles 
of green, small buds, with no hint of color 
save the Scotch rose, whose gold peeps 
warily even thus early through its green 
sheath. A little while, and you shall see it 
yellow as the sunshine's self, with sweet, 
short - stemmed flowers. And still a little 
later the winds shall rock, the bee drowse 
through. Hundred -leaf velvet, thornless 



78 

bouquet how many more? lavish stems 
all, that crowd into one brief month more of 
bloom than their sisters of newer fashion 
dole out through all the year. 

Black Daphne loves them well. Pro- 
priety forbids that they nod from her tur- 
baned head, but all their days of blossom 
she goes with her breast crowded full of 
stemless flowers. She saves, too, the drop- 
ping petals to dry and strew through her 
chest, her drawers. All her clean garments 
smell of them, and bring to her a breath of 
summer, even when snow lies deep. 

Not so her mistress. She grants the 
flower sightly, but cannot forgive its thorns. 
In the garden's farthest edge her one child 
lies buried. The grave is rarely beflowered, 
but only with soft, smooth stems. The 
mound is a swell of green-glossed box-vine, 
with lily-of-the-valley aring at the edge. Be- 
yond that come tulips, hyacinths in orderly 
row, with borders, one half of violet tufts, 
white and blue, one half of pale, fringy, 
clove-scented pinks. They grow and blow 
here in this rich, light earth, unplucked, 
tended always by mother hands. Who 
shall say that the love, the hope, the pride- 
ful ambition, closed within that little coffin, 
do not live again in the flowers ? 



79 

Daphne has only flower-children. If she 
loves passing well her shrubs and vines, 
lowlier blossoms are her passion. And 
surely she was born for anarchy. Do but 
look at this breadth of dark earth, so light 
and crumbly to the tread. Again it is high 
summer. Things for use beans, beets, 
potatoes, squash, cucumbers straggling, 
crowding over the face of it, their matted 
green everywhere beflecked with big, fringy 
poppies, royal red, cream -white, or vivid 
pink. In between, bluets peer pertly, prince- 
feather uplifts its stately stalk, gay snap- 
dragon flings wide its painted throat. At 
one edge bachelor's-button fights hard with 
vigorous pepper -plants. A huge, branchy 
sun -flower stands tall above the battle. 
Over against, palma-christi spreads its feath- 
ery fans higher than your head, its red stalk 
overrun with green cypress-vine. 

All sprang where they stand from self- 
sown seed. Daphne could no more uproot 
them than she could do murder. Spade, 
hoe, and rake have turned aside from them, 
or wrought only that they might be free of 
hindering weeds. See, too, these clumps 
of heart's-ease, so velvet-dark and golden- 
eyed, standing in shade of green asparagus 
plumes. The big, silvery onions swell up 



So 



through a tangle of bright portulaca; cab- 
bages sit cheek -by- jowl with phlox; tall, 
full-podded pea-vines make room on their 
bush for their kindred, the sweet-pea. 

No foot of earth is bare. Here be green 
stems of broom, dreaming through a leaf- 
less summer of its February flowering. Co- 
chorus, too, all anocl with ragged yellow 
balls, touch-me-nots, four-o'clocks, pretty-by- 
nights, sweet-williams, cowslip, purple flag 
all the pretty, quaintly -named, old-fash- 
ioned crew. Wild things beside. Daphne 
knows well the secrets of field and wood. 
Thence she has brought hither blue-bell and 
columbine purple, red, and white flower- 
de-luce, scarlet catch-fly, yarrow green and 
feathery butterfly-weed, swamp-honeysuc- 
kle that learned folk call azalea Heaven 
knows what beside. Each after his kind, 
she plants, tends, coaxes into flower. Save, 
indeed, the coy yellow lady-slipper, who will 
not be comforted for her wood-sprites, and 
sends up her green stalk bare of its yellow 
glory. 

The strength of the garden is its herbs 
so many, so various whose names were 
never writ in the wisest man's book. Com- 
monplace savors, sage, fennel, dill, caraway, 
sweet basil, sweet marjoram, thyme, tansy, 



Si 



elecampane, mint, bergamot, " Texas sage," 
rue, catnip, hoarhound, bestrew the whole 
space, cluster thick at foot of the paling, 
cling and abide at root of all the shrubs, or 
in the line of tall hollyhocks the gardens' 
one trace of preciseness. Good in their 
place, one and all for comfort, or flavor, or 
healing of small hurts. Not from them, 
though, does the wise woman draw her store. 
See this tall, weedy stalk, thick beset with 
purple blossoms, with dull, dark, rough, 
green leaves. Virtue untold inheres in it, 
root and leaf what virtue, only the wise 
woman can tell. Some part of it cures 
green wounds, some part fevers, some part 
assuages the angriest hurt. Its neighbor 
comes, I think, from the swamp. It has 
brown, weeping stems, thick sown with 
feathers of gray -green leaves. Daphne 
whispers a pillow of them is the one sure 
help for sleepless eyes. Tea of these mat- 
ted green stems over against, banishes va- 
pors, warms the cockles of the heart. In- 
deed it were too long to tell of all the wild, 
strange growths here flourishing side by 
side. Gathered from all the four sides of 
wood and field, they are plucked each in 
its season, brewed with barks and roots 
and seeds into potion or philter healing 
6 



82 



draught it may be, or one that shall work 
harm. 

Only the wise woman knows. Her face 
is a mask tawny, inscrutable. Good she 
hath wrought beyond question. Ill, too, it 
may be -life hath a curious woof, more 
curious even than the gay threads flashing 
out from her darting shuttles. The sun 
sinks low ; birds set up a sleepy chirp. She 
drops batten and treadle, to go out among 
the flowers. A last look shows her stand- 
ing at ease, sun-rays gilding her bare gray 
head, with the good green leaves behind, 
the garden as a lush carpet unrolled at her 
feet. 




SUMMER RAIN 



>T has portents without num- 
ber. See the sky of mottled 
red that the dawn unrolls for 
us. The earliest sun-rays strike 
through it long, white, up- 
ward-streaming lances. " The sun is draw- 
ing water," country people say. A little 
later, when he is an hour above the hor- 
izon, there will likely be " sun - dogs " as 
well. Long before those balls of vivid 
opalescence have gone before him into the 
cloud's dun swathe, earth will have repeated 
to you the story of rain, not only in dewless 
grass and in low-skimming flights of swal- 
lows. There is a thrilled, expectant hush 
in flower and tree. Poplar leaves curl and 
quiver till their silver lining makes light 
the leafy darkness ; those of the elm rise 
up in thirsty welcome. The oaks, big bosses 
of glossy green, droop generously, as though 
saying, " Flowers first." Dawn winds die 
away to a low undertone of sighing. Wafts 



84 

of heavy perfume come up from the clover. 
Woods and hedge-rows send out the vanilla 
sweetness of grape blossoms the scent 
that, of all others, embodies the soul of 
summer. Garden air is well-nigh faint 
with odor of rose and lily and primrose and 
honeysuckle. Only the spice of clove-pinks 
redeems it accents with vivid sweetness 
what would else be overpowering. Helio- 
tropes, marigolds, four-o'clocks, verbenas, 
phlox, petunias, are true sun -flowers. A 
lowering day they fold up their bright hues, 
and stand stern, sad -colored, patient 
awaiting the downpour. There is something 
wonderfully human about these sun-lovers. 
If fate sets them in shade, they will grow 
tall with all their might, and creep and bend 
and twist, with never a sign of blossom, 
until they reach the sun-blaze. Often they 
are so spent in the reaching that the flower, 
when it comes, is but a poor ghost of blos- 
som, whose pallor not even the sun -kiss 
can flush. 

Roses love sunshine fairly well. They 
run riot in the dashing of warm rain. Buds 
unfold as by magic ; blown flowers bare 
their hearts ; faded ones dance earthward 
in long drifts of shed petals. If the rain 
turns chill, the "rose would shut and be a 



85 

bud again," only its heart is so full of 
moisture as to have lost power to close. 

The presage of rain falls early upon the 
birds. Before dawn they begin singing. 
All the orchard rings with clear thrush 
notes; robins sing, loud and sweet, from 
the hedge-rows, undervoiced by the wrens' 
reedy call ; the big oaks are vocal with 
blackbird chatter ; the wild cherry at the 
field's edge sends you out the oriole's clear 
jangle, the wood-pigeon's coo ; the cries of 
feeding partridges come faint and far from 
the bush pasture ; crows and woodpeckers, 
screaming noisily, dart like feathered can- 
non-balls across meadow and corn-field. 

Before sunrise all are silent. The barn- 
yard din, too, has died away. Instead of 
crowing, the cocks feed industriously ; small 
chicks peep in sleepy content from under 
brooding wings. Cattle graze quietly, with 
only now and then an upward glance, in 
place of running wildly about, with stiff 
tails, lowered heads, and uplifted voices, as 
they did when first awake. 

Out in the far pasture the colts are run- 
ning races. They snuff the rain afar off, 
and grow fairly wild. See how they rear 
and plunge and prance, or run with heads 
daintily aside, whinnying faintly one to an- 



86 



other, or giving some laggard a mischiev- 
ous nip or kick. What fire, what grace, 
what spirit, in these creatures, " by spur or 
bridle undefiled," and fine as silk in their 
glossy new coats ! Now they have swung 
into a dead run. It is a race where the 
best horse is sure to win. Round and round 
they go, the rhythmic hoof-beats falling on 
the turf with the sound of summer surf. 
Watch that black fellow far outside. My 
word for it, he is winner. He was lengths 
behind at the start, but see how he runs, 
with head low to earth, as though the great 
leaping bounds were but play for his mag- 
nificent muscle. Mark the ease of his 
stride, the lightning quickness of stretch 
and gather. In the field's round he has 
locked the leader ; now he passes him, and 
runs far ahead. See him stop short, fling 
up his tapering muzzle, and neigh defiance 
to those so far behind ! It is time to stop. 
Rain is moving in from the woodland a 
gray, falling wall. Well may the young 
racers scamper for the big oak's shelter. 
They had better, though, choose that wide, 
low-spread mulberry a hundred yards away. 
The air is vibrant with thunder; and look! 
that blinding white glare means that some 
bolt has struck less than a mile away. Ah ! 



87 

there is another, and another. See that 
big black oak at the field's edge, riven 
into long splinters ! Thunder -clouds fol- 
low water. The oak stood just in this 
one's path to the creek. Boom ! boom ! 
boom ! how the thunder rolls and crashes ! 
But fainter, farther, every time. 

The first flurry is over. We shall have 
no more sharp lightning, nor drops heavy 
as hail. The real rain, though, is just be- 
ginning a slow, steady fall that means 
"greenness to the grass and glory to the 
flower." 

Not to-day, perhaps, but to-morrow and 
for many morrows. It is the "gentle rain " 
that is the true rain from heaven, that 
feeds the thirsty land, and at last wells up 
in springs of living waters. The sky is a 
dome of gray vapor, without fold or break. 
We will have an hour of watery enchant- 
ment. 

Along the creek boys are out with hook 
and line. How or why no man can tell, but 
fish bite their best upon a gray, rainy day. 
That barefoot lad, whose patched shirt is 
soaked through, has one big trout already. 
His pole is a pawpaw from the near thicket, 
his float an old cork, his line a length of 
granny's black flax thread, his bait earth- 



88 



worms, grasshoppers, and seventeen -year 
locusts ; but, in spite of all, he will go home 
with a string of fish to make a scientific 
sportsman die of envy. Ah ! there is a 
strike indeed ! It must be the patriarch of 
the pool who has risen to the locust so 
deftly dropped just above his favorite sunk- 
en rock. See him run up stream and down, 
across, athwart, lashing the water into foam, 
or leaping out of it until half his silver length 
is visible ! The boy will never land him ? 
Wait a bit, and see. He, too, is in the water, 
wading up to his waist, slipping, stumbling, 
it must be cutting his bare feet on the sharp 
stones below, but too intent on his quarry 
to heed it. He has no reel, but that does 
not matter. A bit of stick serves to wind 
the slack of the line, as inch by inch he 
gathers it from the fighting, struggling creat- 
ure. If the trout is game and wary, his 
captor is cunning. Slowly, cautiously, he 
heads for a little land-locked pool. The 
trout darts into it, and dives for a friendly 
root. The fisherman dives too, quite out of 
sight, though the water is but three feet 
deep. He comes up with a gurgling whoop 
of triumph, and the big fish clasped to his 
breast. Really he was worth the wading 
not an ounce under two pounds, and with 



half a dozen broken hooks embedded in the 
big jaw. He looks like a shield of silver 
pearl as he lies, flashing rainbows, on the 
green growths of the bank. A single bird- 
call sounds shrill and clear. The fisherman 
glances up apprehensively. It is a red- 
bird's note, and means the end of rain and 
fishing. It is answered from every side. 
First by the mocking-bird, who darts out 
from his nesting thicket to perch, on some 
high bough and pour out a flood of melody. 
Robins follow, bluebird, thrush, oriole. A 
low wind springs and freshens. The sky 
rises, and hardens to gray-white, with here 
and there a fragment of rain-cloud under it, 
from which comes now and again a fitful 
shower. 

Grassland is a green lake two inches 
deep, with red earthworms revelling in its 
clear shallows. Muddy rivulets run along 
the corn -rows, their faint trickle drowned 
in the rustle of tossing blades. To-night, 
when the world is still, you can actually 
hear the corn grow a peculiar faint up- 
rushing murmur, like nothing else under 
heaven. In a warm, wet night corn-stalks 
in good ground will lengthen fourteen to 
sixteen inches. What wonder that such 
growth is audible. 



QQ 

Now the sun shines, not faint and watery, 
but with true summer heat. The whole 
world is vivified. Flowers laugh out in the 
hedge-rows; leaves whisper in the soft air 
overhead. And there is Master Red-bird 
taking his bath in the tiny pool that has 
gathered in a hoof-mark beside the road. 
Odd that such a drenching has not given 
him water enough. He has plenty of com- 
pany. Nearly every track has an occupant 
splashing in its tiny depths or preening his 
feathers upon the brink. Here sit a pair 
of ruby-throats flowers of air aperch on 
a dead twig, oiling and arranging their wet 
green coats. There the oriole flashes black 
and yellow, with the scarlet tanager and in- 
digo-bird calmly looking down from their 
crab-apple fastness, where, year after year, 
they rear their young undisturbed. Stolen 
waters are sweet. Perhaps that is why the 
birds make haste to use these little pools. 
They know somehow that they will not en- 
dure. Even now they are sinking into the 
thirsty land. The grass lies warm and dry 
underfoot. The air is like wine. A won- 
derful world, new and fresh, smiles back to 
the sunlight. " There was rain to-day." 




IN THE OLD FIELD 



LWAYS, almost, the old field has 
a history. Sometimes a trag- 
edy lies back of it wrecked 
lives, a ruined home. Oftener, 
a long legal battle, with lands 
in Chancery idly awaiting its issue. 

Again, sometimes, it is the manorial in- 
stinct of English blood, which, under all 
suns, delights to have and hold twice the 
breadth of land it can keep in heart and tilth. 
Whatever its reason for being, always 
it is full of delicious vagrants. The very 
breezes blowing over are tricksy sprites. It 
lies, a clear hollow in the world of belting 
woodland, with sunshine pouring in, a sea 
of molten gold. 

Curious waters trickle into it from the 
swamp's deep -stained pools, to vein with 
brown threads the lush, dull - green, low 
places. All manner of marsh growths fol- 
low the streams : mallows pink and yel- 
low blue-flag, calamus, reeds, rushes, tall, 



92 

coarse marsh-grass, now and again a cat- 
tail, with million upon million of yellow 
marsh marigolds. 

In the water's edge you see the wax-green 
leaves, the white flowers of hart's-tongue. 
Big clumps of dull-pink everlasting carpet 
acre upon acre in faint, dim lawn, that might 
fitly drape a ghost of summer. Pluck of it 
freely, dry the pendulous clusters in a wind- 
less space, and all winter long your eyes 
shall rejoice. All the more if you choose, 
too, bents of the feathery barrens - grass, 
standing taller than your head. It is the 
feeble remnant of a great multitude once 
covering as with a garment the face of this 
earth. Old settlers know it well, and de- 
light to tell you how, in pioneer times, a 
man could ride through it and tie the heads 
either hand across his horse's neck. 

Wild, woodsy things cling to the old field. 
Hazel-bushes fight with the mallows and mar- 
igolds ; sassafras runs riot, an army with 
banners, now green, now gold. Lace-leafed 
sumach covers its autumn face with flame ; 
crab-apple and hawthorn make spring alive 
with the murmur of many bees ; scrub-oak 
advances yearly in ever-thickening ranks, 
with straight, slim young tulip-trees and sil- 
ver sycamores. 



93 

Who shall name or number the tangle of 
vines ? Here be wild-grape, star-flowered 
clematis, poison -oak, scarlet trumpet-vine, 
Virginia creeper, bitter-sweet, cross-vine, par- 
tridge-berry, beside half a hundred name- 
less things instinct with graceful life. This 
one, a mat of wreathy green, is a mark of 
the richest soil. It feeds and flourishes 
only on the fatness of light, black mould. 
Only the root is perennial. The soft, twin- 
ing stem does not peep up till May shines 
hot and splendid. It comes, though, with a 
rush, and is coiling twenty feet in air ere the 
long, long June days usher in high summer. 

It has big, ovate leaves, growing by fours 
around the green stem. You would never 
look twice at its white, inconspicuous, clus- 
tered flowers, that spring from the axil of 
each fan of leaves. Wait, though, for the 
seed round, green, translucent, in pendu- 
lous clusters as big as, more graceful than, 
Malaga grapes. What Faun or Dryad could 
wish a lovelier crown ? 

Unless, indeed, she lingered till the coral- 
vine was in berry. The flexile, green, tough, 
slender stem has almost the strength of steel, 
and is beset all its length with waxy leaves 
of richest green, with shining clusters of red, 
red berries, whose color, intense and glow- 



94 

ing, puts the bitter-sweet's red and yellow 
out of countenance. Frost cannot wither it, 
nor winter pale its infinite vitality. In the 
first snow you find it gleaming cheerily amid 
briers all leafless, or around tall, dead weeds. 

Mortal maidens choose instead of it "love- 
vine." Wise folk call it dodder; children, 
"gold-thread." See how it tangles in and 
out of the waterside growths, making webs 
of spun sunshine below their dusk of leaves. 
A true parasite, it is nobly impartial. You 
find it equally in sunlit breadths of clover, 
in this tangle of dark stems. It grows rank- 
er upon the succulent water-fed plants. 

Would you practise divination, break the 
tiniest jointed yellow stem and fling it be- 
hind you in the crotch of shrub or weed. 
Ten days later look at it. If it has with- 
ered to nothingness, so shall your under- 
taking fail your lover prove untrue. Con- 
trarywise, if a fine yellow thread begins to 
creep out from new knotted roots, you may 
go your ways rejoicing, secure of good faith, 
good fortune. Before the summer ends all 
the clump will be gold laced with the deli- 
cate deadly twining. For though the sup- 
porting stem may flourish greenly through 
that season, it puts away life and leaf to- 
gether. New stems will spring from the 



95 

root, but there comes not leaf or bud to 
those that the love-vine gilded. 

All the marsh-land is sweet with pinky- 
pale swamp-roses. There, too, the big green 
brake grows waist-high, and smaller ferns tan- 
gle in the shady tree-set places. The earthy 
banks wave to you long sprays of Solomon's 
seal. Pink-root uplifts to sunshine its scar- 
let, gold-lined trumpets, as gorgeous almost 
as the cardinal-flower, whose scarlet torch 
outflames the glow of August. 

Often, too, the old field holds sweetbrier, 
the poet's eglantine. It is a strangely hu- 
man flower even here where Nature is so 
rapidly reclaiming her lost domain. It loves 
a rich root-hold ; if warm and stony, all the 
better. Oftener than not it is the living, 
the only epitaph of a forgotten home. Vivid 
hedge -rose clusters, pink as the heavens 
at dawn, put to shame its scant bestarment 
of pale, small, single blossoms ; yet are 
themselves more shamed by the exquisite 
sylvan fragrance of the sweetbrier's green 
leaves. 

Upland, on the gulleyed hill-sides, "but- 
terfly-weed " glows in summer sunshine like 
unto hanclfuls of yellow-scarlet flame amid 
a sea of feathery sedge. Broom-sedge the 
country folk call it, or sometimes " broom- 



96 

straw." Many a hearth in the old days was 
beswept with a bunch of it, big as the two 
hands could hold, bound hard and fast to- 
gether with a tough white-oak splint. It is the 
plague of grass-land. Against its winged 
seed, lighter far than thistle-down, no de- 
fence shall avail. 

As useless as it is beautiful, it is omni- 
present. But not omnipotent. Here yel- 
low cinque-foil, yellower mimosa, creep them 
and bloom amid its bristly tussocks. The 
pink, small partridge pea, too, climbs pertly 
over its tall, swaying stalks ; white, waxen 
silk weed blossoms nod disdain of its stiff 
plumes. Sorrel, pink and yellow, straggles 
about its root ; even " Nimble Will," oth- 
erwise wire-grass, goes where it listeth with- 
out regard to the sensibilities of its statelier 
brother. 

And where the light earth lies long un- 
trodden, wild strawberries enter in and pos- 
sess it, as though the sedge but grew of a 
purpose to shelter them. See this patch of 
them, all agleam with fairy fruit ! Do but 
taste it then say truly if the garden's red, 
luscious berries are worthy to be named in 
the same day with these wild, flavorous 
things. It was of such as they that the 
wise man wrote, " Certainly God might have 



97 

made a better berry, but certainly God never 
did." 

This flat, wet breadth is the dewberry's 
chosen home. Here in May you shall 
see twenty-foot-long trails of white blooms, 
prone on the earth amid sedge and wire- 
grass, with a cloud of busy, gold -dusted 
bees sucking sweet content from all the 
flower-hearts. Here, too, in June you may 
come through dew and sunrise to pick sweet, 
black fruit, scarce less lucent than the dew. 

Most likely the partridges will be there 
before you. Then the first broods have just 
begun to run freely from the nest. The 
brown mothers know to a day when this 
dainty fruit is ripe. There is no prettier 
sight than one of the small, shy creatures, 
a berry in her bill, calling her brood to the 
feast, while her mate stands sharply at at- 
tention. 

To see it you must needs move with feet 
of silence, or have " receipt of fern-seed and 
walk invisible." If you do but stir or break 
a twig, the old birds give a little quavering 
cry, the young ones melt into the grass 
the earth their elders meanwhile fluttering 
away with tossing, squawking, and beating 
of wings. 

Birds of all feather flock to the feast of 
7 



98 

dewberries. About the vines you may meet 
Robin Redbreast, that noisy coxcomb, the 
red-headed woodpecker, sober thrush, gor- 
geous oriole, the big, black log-cock, blue- 
bird, wren, and jay. 

Master Mocking-bird, too a fellow of 
infinite jest. Sometimes it is his humor to 
go, slow of wing, to a laden, crowded vine, 
uttering, as he flies, the cry of the cruel 
blue-winged hawk. It may be only a grew- 
some jest. Most likely, though, it is done 
with intent to frighten away bigger birds, 
who might dispute with this winged humor- 
ist the bes;t place at Nature's feast. 

A little while, and the raspberries hang 
blacker, sweeter, more full of fine savor, in 
all the shady thickets. To that feast come 
garter and chicken snakes as well as red- 
breast and red-head. The harmless ser- 
pents acoil about the vines evoke no protest 
from those peaceful birds. Yet those feath- 
ered termagants, the cat-bird and the mocker, 
set up a wondrous hue and cry if once they 
spy a reptile. 

Blackberry time brings the old field other 
visitors than those that creep and fly. Pigs 
wriggle through rotting fences to feast on 
fallen fruit, coons and possums steal in by 
the glimpses of the moon. Day by day 



99 

r~ 

housewives, market -pickers, come, and go 
away full -handed. So, too, do the gray 
squirrels the Ariels of the wood. 

For the blackberry is a very democrat. 
It thrives best in the freedom of waste land, 
growing over all for all. Its best-beloved 
haunt is an old, old orchard, where it may 
root and twine about half-dead peach-trees, 
or gnarled, half-bent, close -stemmed seed- 
ling apples, starveling reminders of the days 
when the old field was closer in touch with 
humanity. This small, imperfect fruit often 
makes up in savor for what it lacks of sub- 
stance. 

Plum thickets are, in some sort, the ghosts 
of long-dead gardens. The original root, 
perhaps, defended the fence's weakest cor- 
ner. When it was torn away, the sturdy 
growth remained to mark the vanished 
home-seat, to hang fair-colored, juicy ovals 
by the thousand and ten thousand to tempt 
or refresh the wayfarer who stops for a min- 
ute in their thorny shade. 

Woe to him if a wild plum tempts his 
lip. Its rich bloom promises sugary sweets ; 
yet, until the fruit has lain mellowing for 
days on the warm earth at foot, it is almost 
as bitterly astringent as a green persimmon. 

Saith the Arab proverb, "The reward of 



TOO 



good works is like dates sweet, and ripen- 
ing late." For date read persimmon, and 
you are not far off the truth. Persimmons 
grow often in the woods, but reach their last 
and best estate here in the old field. It is 
a wonderfully vital plant. A chance-sown 
seed will be in three years a tree coming 
into fruit. One, too, that can be got rid of 
only by the most rigorous grubbing. June 
sees its green flowers full of subtlest sylvan 
fragrance. Six weeks later all the twigs are 
sown along their under sides with hard, pale- 
green spheroids that in two months more are 
yellow and dusted over with whitish-purple 
bloom. 

Thenceforward they merely hang high till 
the time of killing frost. If that keeps off till 
December, your true persimmony persimmon 
clings to its roughness, albeit here and there 
an early faint-heart is eatable. Master Pos- 
sum is the best guide to such an one. He 
is at once connoisseur and epicure, whose 
taste you may safely follow. Most trees are 
sweet and stripped by Christmas. The very 
roughest hang on until February a special 
providence to all manner of wild things, 
when their usual larders are deep under the 
snow. 

If chance sets such fruit in your way, taste 



101 



it without fail. The flavor is unique some- 
thing betwixt a reminiscence and a promise. 
Besides, the old field yields hazel-nuts for 
Halloween, crab-apples to tantalize you with 
their exquisite fragrance, wild grapes, red 
and black haws. Indeed, whether of savor 
or beauty or sweetness, the half hath not 
been told. 




WHEAT HARVEST 



SUMMER day betwixt dawn 
and sunrise. White mist 
wreaths hang about the tree- 
tops, grass land and clover 
spread a gray shimmer of dew. 
In the east a clear shining, with the faintest 
rose tinge showing through its translucence. 
There is no breath of air. The big new 
leaves hang still and stirless, save when 
some bird in full song flashes in and out. 
The whole world has voice. From the wood 
comes the locust's shrilling ; crows wheel and 
caw in the blue overhead. There is a low 
call from the bittern, flying straight and swift 
to her nest in the marsh two miles away, and 
stealing under and through it the plaintive 
cry of hungry young hawks from the cradle 
of sticks high up in the big poplar. Jarring 
notes these, that serve to accent the flooding 
melody of robin, bluebird, thrush, and oriole. 
Surely a thousand throats are attuned in the 
shelter of hedgerow and thicket, where wild 



IQ3 

rose and elder and grape blossoms by ten 
thousands send wafts of vivid fragrance into 
the morning air. A heavier scent under- 
lies and strengthens it something subtle 
and penetrating, faint yet vivifying, like the 
smell of clean, fresh-turned earth. It is the 
odor of wheat -fields yellow unto harvest. 
See how they spread broad, billowing reach- 
es that the first low level sunbeams turn to 
midsummer gold ! If, indeed, Persephone 
came back to earth in such guise, well might 
Demeter, the great mother, rejoice and make 
festival over the coming. Here are the 
year's first fruits, the most golden gift in all 
the horn of plenty. Mark the grace of it. 
The sere blades drooping at the root, stalks 
upright in their bravery of golden mail, bent 
bearded heads, with a dew pearl on the tip 
of each defensive spear. Some few, you 
will note, stand pertly upright. The har- 
vest-master will tell you there is nothing 
but chaff in them ; and, if so minded, you 
can draw a moral of the humility of full 
heads. But not at the minute. Sharp 
through the sylvan chorus come the clang 
of whetted steel, the blur of wheels and 
hoofs, and men's voices. The cradlers have 
trooped over the fence, and stand whetting 
their blades under the big mulberry, from 



IQ4 

which they have scared a flock of noisy 
blackbirds. They will work here in the fresh 
land where big stumps forbid the use of ma- 
chinery. 

At the farther edge, through the wide 
gate, comes the self-binding reaper, spick- 
and-span in red paint and bright steel. It 
is a ponderous affair of wheels and reels 
and belts and aprons. There is something 
almost uncanny about it. The four mules 
who draw it go at a trot, and faster than eye 
can follow huge wire -bound sheaves are 
tossed so far aside as to be out of the way 
next round. It does twenty men's work, 
and does it thoroughly; but for the true 
harvest flavor you must follow the cradlers. 
Stout fellows they must needs be, and well 
in their prime. It is a rhythm of motion, 
a harmony of mighty muscle, to see them 
arow, sweeping the golden grain into straight, 
gleaming swaths. They cut the field in 
squares, and as a corner is reached the 
leader steps out, and breathes himself till 
the last man has brought up his swath. 
Then they fall in, one behind the other, 
with the precision of soldiers on parade. 
Sweep for sweep, blade to heel they go. 
Now the leader quickens his stroke. It is 
ten o' the clock, dew has vanished, blades will 



IQ5 

hold edge, and muscles are warm and sup- 
ple for a race. " All good men follow me," 
he shouts over his shoulder, whirling his 
bright blade through the bending grain with 
the speed and force of some mighty engine. 
The good men are not slow to follow. With 
straining muscle, with panting breath, they 
surge forward. The air is alive with the 
glimmer of steel ; grain falls as before a 
whirlwind. The day is white-hot unbear- 
ably so to an idler, but grateful and life- 
giving to workers bathed in perspiration 
from head to heel. 

When the farm-bell rings dinner-time the 
square is almost done, and there are rab- 
bits galore in its small remnant. Wheat is 
Molly Cottontail's chosen summer ambush. 
With her children she has run in and in from 
the flash of steel, little dreaming that they 
will be left no abiding- place, no stalks of 
refuge. Swish ! swish ! swish ! in ceaseless 
round now go the gleaming blades. One 
drops out, another, another, from the swiftly 
narrowing space. It is but a thin fringe 
now, with a dozen small, frightened, puny 
things darting hither and yon through it. 
The last swath falls. There is a wild, exult- 
ant whoop, a sudden scurry of feet, the leap- 
ing of poor Cottontail towards all quarters 



io6 



pursuit, capture, laughter, and shouting. 
The captors hang their cradles carefully in 
the shade, and go jocundly to their waiting 
dinner. 

See what a green tent the great mulberry 
spreads here in this sea of gold ! The limbs 
droop quite to meet the springing grain. 
You have but to reach forth a hand and 
pluck the luscious fruit. If you like not the 
flavor, come on to the near hedge-row, where 
wild raspberries hang ripe and juicy, and 
dainty enough for Titania's banquet. Make 
a cup for them of grape-leaves, and your 
feast shall have true woodland savor. Or, 
if you have a mind for flowers, fill your arms 
with milk-white elder clusters, with pink 
trails of wild rose and wax -white milk-weed 
blossom and garish butterfly orchis, besides 
clematis and brake fern, and scarlet pink- 
root and yellow cinque-foil, and a hundred 
nameless beautiful things that blush unseen 
through wood and field. Gather, and go 
quickly to shelter. The noon heat is like 
a furnace. It will shrivel up your blossoms 
even quicker than it cures the grain. Sheaves 
half green this morning lie dry and yellow, 
ready to be put in the shock. Long ere 
nightfall the whole field will be thick set 
with the golden cones. Towards evening 



IQ7 

there may come clouds, scattered white cu- 
muli that foretell fine weather's continu- 
ance. As one drifts over the sun the har- 
vest-master looks up and smiles at the 
grateful shadow. He knows what it means 
that the pains of seed-time will not be 
lost at harvest. 




HIGH SUMMER 



GOOD green world is rolling 
from the silvern stillness of 
dawn to the glory of golden 
day. Low cloud rims the east- 
ern world's edge, a Titan's ram- 
part, over which the sun is sending long, 
white arrows far up the brightening sky. 
Underneath it, what enchantment ! What 
winds of balm blow low from shorn mead- 
ows, from breadths of rank clover, where 
sleek, mild-eyed cattle graze knee-deep in 
purple bloom! What bird -song wells up 
from each tree and shrub ! Clear and sweet, 
it tells of love in the joy of fruition a dif- 
ferent harmony truly from the exultant, din- 
some clamor of nesting-time. No wonder 
the winged choir is happy ! The nests are 
ateem with fledglings, and field, hedge-row, 
and orchard yield now rich largess of grain 
and berry and creeping things, all alike tooth- 
some to small, hungry mouths. 

As the winds blow the birds sing high 



summer ; so, too, does the dew proclaim it. 
Touch the branch above, you shall be 
drenched in a fairy bath ; step but once 
from the path, your feet are sodden. And 
was ever aught fairer than this feathery oat- 
field, bediamonded at every point? On 
blade and stalk, on each drooping grain, 
the bright beads stand arow. The sun 
sends down a shaft, and lo ! a world of 
rainbows flashes back to you from the toss- 
ing blue-green mass. May has dew, indeed, 
grateful alike to soul and sense, but not to 
be named beside this lucent love-gift of still 
midsummer nights. Midsummer fairies have 
blessed it, too. Go through it as you will- 
lave you in thick leafage or tramp sturdily 
over streaming grass -land you shall be 
none the worse of it. Not even if you dare 
invade the corn-field, with its rank upon rank 
of dark -green knights true warriors all, 
that shall put to flight the grim ogre Fam- 
ine. Plumed knights are they, with every 
plume true gold. See the yellow dust that 
powders all the field. Mark, too, the fine, 
faint incense-cloud that the dawn wind has 
scarce strength to blow away from the field 
of tossing spears. The breath of it in the 
nostrils is half barbaric neither sweet nor 
bitter, yet full of subtle suggestion. Again 



no 



you see Choctaw and Cherokee, Seneca and 
Oneida, range the fair land, and hold corn- 
dance or sing death - song. Truly these 
warrior stalks, green and sturdy, shall serve 
while time endures to recall that lost race. 

For the most part, there is only bare black 
earth at foot of these lancers of plenty. Now 
and again you see a tuft of crab-grass send- 
ing its slender claws all along the clean fur- 
rows. Here, too, where a runnel brings down 
the wash of the garden, there spreads an acre 
of morning-glories. How they climb and 
writhe from stalk to stalk ! What witchery 
of tender lines they spread here in this green 
gloom ! White, blue, pink, crimson, royal 
purple, glaring scarlet, spotted and striped 
in all fashions, the wreathen bells hang, as 
tenderly translucent as though shaped from 
dawn and dew. Truly these be sweet bells 
that shall never jangle out of tune. In the 
open they would live scarce an hour ; here, 
high noon will find them fair as the day it- 
self, with yet a loitering dew-drop in each 
pearly heart. 

Far different are the marsh - blossoms 
glowing so yellowly upon its border. They 
might be made of sun-rays massed and mint- 
ed, so stiff, so golden, do they nod. Prouder 
than pride they stand, turning full heaven- 



Ill 



ward the bravery of their brown velvet hearts, 
enrayed with hue so dazzling it outvies the 
summer sun. Until frost falls they are fade- 
less ; scentless, too. What wonder that no 
hand cares to pluck ! Of a verity, sweet- 
ness is sometimes better than light, especi- 
ally if you happen to be born a flower. 

Or even a fruit. Here, in the orchard, 
harvest-apples hang palely golden amid the 
clustering leaves. Fair to see, indeed, but 
not for a minute comparable with the mel- 
low, pinkish-streaked Junes. Who eateth of 
them shall not find 

" Dead Sea fruit, that tempts the eye, 
But turns to ashes on the lip." 

<> (Tfe 

Walk but a little farther, though, and ap- 
ples shall not tempt you, howsoever much 
of Eve our mother there may be in your soul. 
At the farther edge you come on peach- 
trees bent to earth with a rich burden. Big, 
downy ovals, pink and white or yellow and 
crimson, and fairly bursting with sweet juice. 
Pluck one from a topmost bough, one that 
the sun has but just warmed on one side, 
while the other is yet cool and dew-wet ; 
eat it upon the instant ; then say if you 
would change for nectar and ambrosia, 
though served by Hebe's self. Whoso nev- 



er sees peach-trees ablossom, or in this man- 
ner eats of the fruit thereof, misses some- 
what of life's pure joys. At flower, its almond 
scent is the finest note in April's harmony 
of perfume ; at fruit, the odor is as truly the 
crown and perfecting of summer sweets. It 
is like nothing else under the sun. Breathe 
it with shut eyelids, and you shall see vi- 
sions and dream dreams. It is Nature's last 
touch the crowning mercy of her marvel- 
lous handiwork. Peaches picked for mar- 
ket three .days or six before ripeness have 
never the ghost of it. Here it comes, hot 
and sweet, upon all the low winds that 
breathe rather than blow. On their wings 
it follows follows far out into the grass- 
land, where sheep, shorn but a month, graze 
in full-fed content. What eyes the creat- 
ures have stupid, gentle, appealing, full, 
too, of timid curiosity ! Drop your hand- 
kerchief upon some small shrub or brier, 
and mark how they will circle about it with 
lifted heads, longing, yet fearing, to approach 
the fluttering thing. 

Noon comes with short shadows, with stir- 
less air. A hot shimmer wraps all the world. 
Sounds die in it to a drowsy hum. Even 
the cicada's rasping is a monotone of peace. 
Bees shelter them in the hearts of flowers. 



The babbling runnel drones a slumber 
song. And, lying in deep shade, with the 
lulling sough of leaves overhead, you look 
abroad to say, "God's world is very good." 




DOWN THE CREEK 



iHATEVER the season, it is a 
place of delight. The creek 
itself is no sluggish stream 
crawling betwixt muddy banks. 
In winter it is a bold, blue tor- 
rent, brawling rarely over pebbles and around 
boulders. Spring makes of it almost a river, 
swirling and boiling from hill to hill. Heats 
of August shrink it to a bare thread of bright 
water, stealing in long runnels through the 
water -worn grooves in its limestone bed. 
Sometimes they take most curious shapes. 
Here is a capital W written in limpid wave- 
lets upon a stretch of solid stone. Where 
the channel falls it is no trouble to step 
across it. About every half-mile comes a 
"lake," where gravel beds, fallen timber, and 
dead leaves have built an alluvial dam and 
spread a long, bright pool, wherein frogs 
and fish and muskrats disport themselves 
the summer through. 

Oddly enough, when the wood-birds go 



bathing, they prefer the dancing ripples to 
the still shining of the pools. Instinct, per- 
haps, tells them of the greedy fish and big, 
hungry turtles that lie in wait in the depths. 
See that pair of wood-ducks wheedling and 
chattering about the half-dead sycamore that 
bends over the stream. Mrs. Duck made 
her nest in the soft, rotten wood at top of 
it. She has just hatched out a dozen balls 
of yellow down, and is setting about getting 
them down to the water. Once there, they 
will swim like ducks indeed. But flying is 
as yet beyond them, and the nest is twenty 
feet in air. Look close, and you will see 
the mother bird poised with half -spread 
wings just outside the nest. Slowly, cau- 
tiously, with low cries, her mate pushes 
one of the ducklings quite upon the middle 
of her back, gives a sharp, satisfied quack, 
and at once she sails down, settles her- 
self in mid-stream, dives gently, and leaves 
her baby sitting on the water without in the 
least knowing how he got there. With a 
shake of the wings and a quack that says 
" Take care !" she is off to the nest, and 
keeps it up till all her little ones are launched. 
As she brings the last a cruel thing happens. 
Right below her flock there is a swift up- 
swirling of water. Something brown and 



Ji6 



unwieldy comes almost to the surface, then 
sinks like lead, and takes with it the plump- 
est, downiest of all the yellow darlings. In- 
side a minute another is dragged down, and 
another, and still another. The snapping- 
turtle, which, once he has taken hold, " nev- 
er lets go until it thunders," is greedy to- 
day. Anyway, he has a weakness for duck- 
lings. He would eat the whole dozen of 
them if the distracted parents did not hurry 
them ashore. 

There they will not be in very much bet- 
ter case. Foxes live in the caves all along 

O 

the bluffs. Minks, too, and weasels, and 
coons. Any night you may hear them 
splashing about in the water for mussels, 
crayfish, and such small deer. Master Fox 
is no fisherman, but in many ways an antic 
fellow. It delights him no little to find a 
safe, sunny rock overhanging a glassy pool, 
where he can bask in broad daylight or 
stand on tiptoe and play with his tail, nod 
his head, and seem to laugh outright when 
his image in the water repeats each motion. 
He is dainty in his drinking will cross the 
creek a dozen times to lap and lave him in 
its coolest spring. As each lake has its bluff, 
each bluff has its spring. If its waters gath- 
er in plough-land they are apt to be warm 



H7 

and still. If they drain grass or woodland, 
and come out under fifty feet of rock, they 
will be cool and sweet as moonlight over 
snow. Here is the Fox Spring par excellence. 
It gathers in the big South Wood, whose 
edge you see fringing the top of the bluff. 

The bluff faces north a sheer wall of 
blue limestone, seamed and broken into 
huge ledges. In the cleft of one a young 
hickory has got root, and springs straight 
and tall six feet beyond the top. All man- 
ner of wild vines grow in other clefts grape 
vines, wild ivy, poison-oak, trail down almost 
into the water. The glory of it, though, is 
its ferns. The trailing rock-fern runs all 
over the face of it ; each seam and cleft 
is a thick fringe of maidenhair, knee-high 
wherever it gets good root. At the foot it 
springs into a veritable fairy forest, gemmed 
here and there with the coral of Indian tur- 
nip and Solomon's seal. 

All the rocks about the spring that sun- 
shine never touches are beset with lichens 
and liverworts, green and gray. Twenty 
feet away, in a mass of mould that was once 
a fallen tree, is a blackberry clump, bent to 
earth with rich fruit. Eat your fill of it, and 
carry home a good few. What if you have 
no basket? Berries like these grow only 



n8 



where dew and fairies are plenty ; and here 
are sycamore leaves as wide as your two 
"hands. Pin a mat of them together with 
their own leaf -stalks, bend a willow, twig 
about the edge, and heap it with berries half 
as long as your finger and meltingly sweet. 
Then wreath the basket about with yellow 
love vine and feathery grasses, set it out in 
the dew to-night, and morning will show you 
that the day of miracles is not wholly past. 

Drink of the Fox Spring before you leave 
it. There is no such water in three coun- 
ties. You may use the ancient gourd that 
hangs on the root above it. If you are wise, 
though, you will lie all along the cool brink 
of it, and let the living water lave your lips ; 
or else kneel, gather it in your scooped 
palms, and drink and drink the nectar of 
the wood-sprites. 

The stream is delightfully vagrant. It 
bends, turns, and doubles upon itself in each 
half-mile. The bluffs alternate with curious 
regularity. The next one faces south-by- 
east. There you find always the first he- 
paticas. All winter its big, red-brown leaves 
curl and cling to each clefted rock to break 
in late January, or by St. Valentine's at lat- 
est, into wreathy stars white, paly pink, or 
blue, or purple. 



The bluff itself is low a bare ten feejt, 
with big rocks standing out all over the sheer 
face of it. A big hill crowns it, and goes up 
to the level of the plateau behind. There 
the water-nymphs have their flower-garden. 
Anemones grow there ; daisies ; violets ; the 
wild cowslips, with flower like the hot-house 
cyclamen; sweet williams ; blue-flag; colum- 
bine, purple and scarlet ; sweet brier and 
bramble rose; and white August lilies. Be- 
side them a great multitude of nameless, 
delicately beautiful things. There is one 
trailer whose leaf recalls the mimosa, and 
whose white blossom seems a cluster of 
sweet-peas made for fairy wearing. Another 
hangs out a fringe of white cups, shaped like 
the lily -of -the -valley; and still another 
shakes long, yellow, gold - dusty tassels in 
each sweet spring wind. The chiefest of 
them though is a vine, a woody climber, with 
handsome, dark green leaves and flowers of 
true wall-flower yellow, but in shape and size 
like a nasturtium. The root of it loves 
water, and the richness of crumbling rock. 
It grows at the water-side, and clambers up 
the rocky face to fling down torrents of 
trailing bloom. The native purple wistaria 
has much the same habit. Its pale, pendu- 
lous clusters make the creek-side throughout 



v 120 



April a long dream of bloom. In May there 
is the flash of scarlet Virginia creeper, be- 
loved alike of butterfly and humming-bird. 
Master Ruby -throat often builds his wee 
nest in its shelter, and always draws from 
its deep cup his choicest sweets. 

In the pebbly reaches that spring floods 
cover yearly you find pink and purple lark- 
spur, the curious root known locally as 
"Adam and Eve," Jack-in-the-pulpit, yel- 
low celandine, and yellow, wild mimosa. 
Wherever there is a bit of fine earth blue 
grass springs spontaneously, starred with a 
million dandelions. Countless May apples 
burst up through it, too there is apt to be 
a pawpaw thicket and if the earthy bank 
abuts upon the water a fringe of green, stiff 
rushes. 

After the first frost go down the creek for 
chestnuts and scaly-barks. You will walk 
through a glory of yellow leaves, with the 
smell of new-fallen ones coming sweet from 
under foot. Grassland is green as in May. 
Only weeds and stubble lie sere in the low 
sun-rays. The winds breathe, rather than 
blow, yet the ripe nuts patter, patter, at each 
sigh of them. Gather good store, but leave 
plenty for the squirrels. Winter is at hand, 
and they are rightful heirs to Nature's bounty. 



When it does coine, the few days of bit- 
ter cold about the winter solstice, there is 
Fairyland all down the creek. The lakes 
skim over with clear, commonplace ice. In 
the swift runs there is ice only along the 
edges. But ice of such clear shining, such 
wonderful shapes, as freezes nowhere else. 
Each leaf is armored in lace of diamond, 
each twig and grass-spear has its pendent 
pearl, moss and lichen are transfigured, stone 
and pebble made harmonies of frost. 

All the shelving bluffs, whence waters drip 
so cool through summer days, are hung with 
huge icicles, points of fluted pearl. They 
grow upward as well as downward. If the 
frost holds a week they meet in hour-glass 
fashion, and stand white ghosts of fair water 
that only the south wind can make again 
alive. 

He is not slow in rescue. He comes at 
night, with a roar and rush of rain. In a day 
the ice is broken up, and a turbid torrent, 
full of drift and silt, goes racing to the river 
valley, to rest at last in the sea. 




IN THE ROSE GARDEN 



;TEP lightly; it is enchanted 
ground the one realm left to 
fairies and their queen. Do 
you not see them at hide-and- 
seek among the leaves? The 
moon, low in the east, has one white star 
for company. Over and beyond it steals the 
pale luminance of new-coming day. In the 
rare, tremulous, tender light, mark what jew- 
els gleam on fairy robes of pink and pearl, of 
yellow and crimson, and scarlet and creamy 
white ! No diamond has such fire, no pearl 
such roundness ; the most cunning work- 
man cannot set them so daintily about. All 
night long there has been high revel here, 
with honey for the banquet and wine of 
perfume. The noise of it, elfin music and 
singing and laughter, stole into your sleep, 
and awoke you, with wet eyelids, from a 
dream of youth and love. As the horned 
moon climbed over the sky's rim the chant 
grew madder, merrier.; dancers flew quick- 



123 

er than light. Now the morning-star pales 
out of sight in the pink heaven. All the 
horns of Elfland blow a faint, final fanfare. 
The sprites pelt one the other with diadem 
and coronet and wreathen ropes of pearl, 
A bird sings loud and clear, the white light 
strengthens, and drowsy-eyed folk who know 
not fairies look abroad, and see roses red 
or pale or white all dipped and decked, in 
dew. 

What sight so fair, even to every-day eyes ? 
Queen Rose is the poet of blossoms no less 
than the blossom of poets. Here in this 
corner is sweetbrier, breathing out a lyric 
tinged with savor of the woodlands, from 
branches beset with small, pale, shrinking 
flowers. Too small for all her soul of per- 
fume, it exhales from the leaves as well. 
Beyond comes a border all awreath with 
golden bloom. Truly its splendor is epic. 
No Field of the Cloth of Gold can outvie 
this its name-flower. It is vividly vital 
a picture of rampant growth and blowth. 
All the wide trellis is overrun and bestarred 
with golden blossoms, yet long new trails 
lie on the earth about the root. 

And what royal grace clings and abides in 
even the half-open buds ! True aristocrats, 
they grace any station whereunto they may 



be called, yet give out sweetness and good 
cheer if they fall to the lowliest use; even 
more so than that ruddy milkmaid, the hun- 
dred-leaf, whose pink, wrinkled, crowded 
disks nod pertly from the near thicket. Is 
there not a pastoral full of Corydon and 
Phyllis, and love-rhymes and milking-songs 
writ large in her crumpled petals ? Truly 
you must be dull, indeed, if you do not read 
it at first blush. She is the rose of use, not 
beauty. Her hundred leaves yield rose- 
water of most vernal savor. They are best 
of all, too, for drying and scattering in places 
that you would make daintily sweet. Next 
comes the blush-rose, delicate as dawn, a mad- 
rigal of dew and summer and sunshine all 
compact. In among it that blossomy spend- 
thrift, the damask rose, drops trails of scar- 
let clusters. If battle-song ever takes visi- 
ble form and substance it must be like these 
blood-red flowers. There is somethimr war- 

O 

like even in the smell of them, coming hot 
and sweet through the summer air. So, too, 
this soft, faded flower, on the other hand, 
recalls and embodies a cradle-hymn. It is 
sweet as mother's love, softly pale as the 
mother's cheek where baby fingers so love 
to wander. Now Gloire de Dijon tangles 
you in her largess of creamy-hearted bloom. 



125 

The breath of it is like incense penetrant, 
intoxicating, subtly sweet. It brings all the 
vivid languors of a waltz. You see the flow- 
er drooping from beauty's hair against beau- 
ty's breast, and there steals over and through 
you -the spell of rhythmic motion. Some- 
how it changes to a bridal chant a choral 
throbbing with hope and love. 

Ah ! here is the reason of it this Lamarque, 
whose matted mound of prickly green holds 
up to the sunlight five hundred pure white 
roses. The fairy queen herself must have 
sat there last night. Nowhere else are the 
dew pearls so large, so lucent, so thickly 
sown. The tiniest leaf -point is agleam ; 
every blossom hangs its bead ; while a sing- 
ing bird, hid in its green depths, seems to 
say aloud, " Happy is the bride that the sun 
shines on." Then must this bride of roses 
be blessed indeed ! Overhead all is clear 
shining ; the wind sits in the south, and 
barely stirs the leaves. All day for many 
days there will be golden weather. Long 
ere it is ended moss-roses will be ablossom. 
Sweet as they are modest, they flower but in 
high summer. The very breath of it wells 
up from their deep hearts. The angel who 
made gift of moss in return for grateful 
shade must have added, too, the perfume of 



126 



a good deed. It is one of nature's harmo- 
nies, where form is allied to color, 

"Like perfect music unto noble words." 

Whoso shall fitly voice it will stand forth 
acknowledged of his fellows poet by right 
divine. 

This flower, so darkly crimson it is black 
in shadow, is a new Inferno, full of the pain 
and passion of lost souls. Close at hand 
you see a big, blowzy, red-and-white blos- 
som ; ungraceful flaunting it may be, yet, 
for all that, a flower of peace one of Eng- 
land's "blended roses bought so dear." It 
takes you back to Queen Bess, in whose 
coronation pageant there came images of 
"her Majestie's grandmother, of York, in 
a fayre white rose, her Majestie's grandsire, 
of Lancaster, in one all royal red, and her 
Majestie's self, in one strip't red and white." 
Here be monthly roses, love songs one and 
all, pink persistent glories beset with many 
thorns. . Cinnamon roses, too. And what 
artist shall so paint for you farm-house gar- 
dens and quaint, deep door-yards, or coun- 
try churches with simple folk trooping in 
on Sunday mornings ? The breath comes 
clean and sweet and uplifting. Care steps 
away. You stand open-eyed, at peace with 



I2 7 

life, with the world, with your fellow-men, 
and your sore heart echoes, with no mocking 
strain, 

"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow." 




GHOST- LAND 



)T is wrought out of the tragedy 
of transition. What so fair as 
this wooded, swelling hill-top 
in its first estate ? The good 
greenwood so lush, so tall, 
so full of magic, of mystery covered all the 
face of it. Here oak held up its cloud-com- 
pelling height ; here beech dripped rain of 
sunshine through its fine, swaying leaves ; 
winds sighed them asleep in the poplar's 
rocking breast, or went, spent with sighing, 
to the lowland from the walnut's lacy 
boughs. 

Below, the river ran wide and dark. Half 
way the long slope a little spring broke out, 
tinkled down a fairy waterfall over lime- 
stone ledges, betwixt cushions of thick moss. 
Wood flowers the shyest, the rarest crept 
up to laugh with the babbling runnel. 
Goldy-locks wept there her sunlit showers; 
lady-slipper too, finer than fairy foot e'er 
trod, mats of white violet, purple larkspur 



I2 9 



lances, the fine, white, filamented stars of 
woodland lilies each in its hour of blossom 
lit up this sylvan shade. 

What birds sang over them through days 
and nights of June ! What dews distilled ! 
What rain fell soft out of heaven ! What sun- 
rise rose red beyond the river ! What magic 
the moon wrought when mists came up from 
the water to lave the thirsty leaves ! 

The friendly water ! Always the voice of 
it booming, babbling, laughing down the 
ripples thrilled through leaf and bough to 
the woods' deep heart. It sang promise, 
prophecy promise of rain in season, proph- 
ecy of long days to fill up the tale of years, 
lead on to green old age. 

The friendly, fickle water ! Still it races 
to the sea leaping, laughing, singing aloud 
the old, old song of hope and peace. Still 
it sparkles in sunshine, plays in the dancing 
eddies; though all the trees stand ghostly 
bare of leaf, of bark, of bough. The spring's 
roiled tribute drips slow to its gliding breast. 
Fire has burned out the green life of moss 
and fern. Here and there some constant 
flower upthrusts from a cleft root a maid- 
en mourning on the field of fight where her 
green, tall lover stands stark and dead. 

The hill -top has been deadened over. 
9 



130 

All the young, small growth had the axe 
laid at root. About the great trees it traced 
only the ring of death chipped broadly 
away the thick bark to leave a ghastly glar- 
ing belt. First the brave tree laughed it to 
scorn. His root ran strong with sap; his 
heart was all untouched. He decked him 
in all his bravery of tassel and bud and leaf, 
and laughed a welcome to summer. And 
all his new leaves grew broad ; the wind sang 
through ; birds nested in their shelter ; he 
nodded to his next neighbor, "Ah ha! ah 
ha ! Those pigmies down below, girding at 
us with their steels see how well fooled 
they are ! They shall have labor for their 
pains." 

" Verily," nodded the neighbor yet some- 
how his leaves hung all adroop. A shrill- 
ing sigh ran through them the south wind 
calling them to play. A frolic wind, keen 
and hot from the lowlands, a miser of moist- 
ure, drinking wherever he might the dew, 
the juice, the life. All day he blew out of 
a shadowless sky. Night found the poor 
trees without voice or motion, save the 
hoarse, cracked rustle of stiffened leaf- 
bough. In dew, in silence, it bewept them. 
The wise Night knew, all too well, for them 
there was no resurrection through tears. 



Nor any ever save through transmuta- 
tion. See how it hath conspired with the 
rain and the fine weather with the hail, 
the snow, the sleet, the fire to melt them, 
resolve into their original elements these 
spectres of dead greenwood. Through years 
the band hath wrought. The great trunks 
stand aglisten, bare and white, with never a 
hint that here so late they ruffled it, aflaunt 
with summer greenery, amask with winter's 
gemmy boughs. 

Their tangle of tall shadow drops down 
upon the earth, makes the sunshine palely 
spectral for all its summer strength. What 
black, black earth ! Through fire it has 
gained all the waning trees have lost. As 
the gentle conspirators flung down bough 
or trunl:, a great heap blazed on the hill- 
side, or smouldered to coals and ashes. 
Ploughs have scattered, not hidden, them. 
They crunch underfoot at each step on the 
ghost-land. Well called, is it not, spite of 
its tall, green corn, with golden tassels so 
high above your head ? Long ribbons of 
leaf droop, locking across the rows. A 
man can but just well reach the yellow and 
crimson silks that a little later shall be 
bursting ears. The wind chants through 
it an organ-peal to waft away to the far, far- 



132 



ther hill the sweet heavy breath, the golden 
dust of tassels. 

When storms sweep all the river's trend, 
what grumble of thunder, what singing of 
winds here in these dead, tall ranks ! No 
more may they bend and rock before it. 
Stark stiff, they must stand or fall to rise 
only in new growth. Who knows if they 
sigh not for some pitiful hurricane to sweep 
down all their ranks in one sudden mercy 
of ruin? But no! This Old Guard dies. 
Never wilfully shall it surrender space and 
roothold on this our earth. There is brave 
defiance in each upstanding stem. See how 
they have stripped them of cumbering bark, 
and stand in armor of steel against the 
powers of the air, the gnawing tooth of time. 

A brave fight, truly lost from the be- 
ginning. Man, the conqueror, is driven of 
hunger, no less than the lust of land. Year 
by year the ranks shall thin, the plough 
speed more unchecked, the woodland spring 
shrink to a thread, vanish quite away. 
Wheat shall laugh here unto yellow har- 
vest, clover bescent the air, grass bourgeon 
tall, and cattle low all over this, one of the 
thousand hills. 

And the river shall ripple, ripple boom- 
ing at spring's flood-tide, laughing low over 



133 

the rising bar to flout sleepy summer 
winds. Why shall it not rejoice ? Out of 
the eater hath come forth meat, and corn, 
and wine, and oil of gladness ; out of the 
strong sweetness indeed of love, of life, of 
hopeful endeavor. What though the wild- 
wood flowers be ghosts, the \vood-birds van- 
ished, the Dryads fled yonder, in clear 
sunshine, a garden lies abloom, a voice as 
from heaven sings low a cradle-song. 




HORSE AND AWAY 



;WAKE, O sluggard ! The cock 
crows clear for dawn ; the cool 
black darkness pales to tender 
gray. Saddle ; mount upon 
the instant ; shake free rein 
and stirrup and tossing mane, then away as 
the arrow from bended bow. 

The creek lies a mile ahead. Down, 
down you go a long, gentle slope, from 
whose sparse flints the hoofs strike fire. 
Truly it is breath of life you draw in this 
rush through dew-fresh air. A fair world, 
indeed, smiles up from either hand, but you 
have no eye, no thought, for it. 

The thrilling, breathless motion wraps 
you away from other sense. Till the long 
incline is covered and you draw rein at the 
creek, you look not at wood or field, or the 
east faintly mottled with rose, or the blue- 
gray overhead, wherein pale stars fight still 
a losing battle with the day. 

The mirroring stream makes of them 



135 

points of white fire in a magic underworld. 
How fair the slippery water above its bed 
of bare rock or smooth pebbles ! Here at 
the ford it runs arrow-swift, scarce fetlock 
deep. Black Princess paws it daintily with 
impatient hoof, till all the stream is roiled. 
Trifle, the chestnut, will none of that. Whirl- 
ing swift about, she plunges mid-stream up- 
current from her stable-mate, as though to 
say, " I drink always at the fountain-head." 
Royal blood often carries whimsies. Hers 
is of the bluest 

" She can trace her lineage higher 
Than the Bourbon dare aspire. 
Douglas, Guzman, or the Guelph 
Or O'Brien's blood itself." 

She has all the marks of royal lineage. 
Note her fine, thin crest, her silken coat, her 
limpid eyes so full of intelligent fire, her 
flat, clean legs, whose muscles stand out 
like whip-cords with never a trace of fring- 
ing hair. 

What feet are hers, too small, firm, un- 
erring ! Her skimming gallop is as the 
flight of a bird, her leap a veritable soar. 
It is a deep drain or tall timber that stops 
her. Besides, she has the Arab's endur- 
ance. Turn her upon grass after a hard 



136 

day's run, she frisks and caracoles like a 
colt at play. 

Princess may be nay, is the better 
weight-carrier. She is heavier, stouter, too 
powerful indeed for symmetry. Yet you 
shall ride all day many days before you 
find cattle to outmatch the pair whose 
heads are now turned up-stream to the bath- 
ing-pool. 

Nature, our mother, builded it, with Chance 
for her architect. Fifty years ago a huge 
dead tree-trunk fell slantwise athwart the 
stream. Drift silt, gravel, bedded it so firm- 
ly in place that now a bar makes across the 
channel, holding the laughing waters still 
and clear in a pool breast-deep above it. 

Well may the water be clear as new sun- 
rays, cool as the dawn. It comes from the 
springs bubbling out at foot of big gray 
bluffs. This narrow valley is veined and 
threaded with them. Each pellucid wave- 
let is yet surcharged with the vital force 
drawn from Earth, the great mother. 

How they leap and dance up-stream 
through the flumes of blue-gray stone, hast- 
ing, hasting to this smooth reach of bright 
water, from out whose clear-shining engird- 
ling trees and rock and shrubs laugh back 
to you, as real as this upper world. At last 



137 

it tires of playing the painter, and ripples 
merrily away, a fairy cascade, over the dam 
of Nature's building. 

The pool lies in green gloom. A huge 
bending sycamore leans far over it. Ash, 
maple, locust, elm, rise column-wise about 
it. A little farther, and you come to rank 
upon rank of oak, hickory, walnut, all atangle 
at foot with hawthorn, iron-wood, crab-apple. 
The farther bank is matted with shrub- 
cottonwood, that is tufted with round, white 
flowers. This side a reach of bare, flat 
stone juts out into the water, still warm 
with the sun of yesterday, despite the cool 
night-dews. 

Stepping-stones, flat and smooth, lead 
down to it from the bath-house. That was, 
three hundred years ago, a smart young 
white-oak, the vigorous pioneer of what was 
still a prairie world. Time brought it age 
and girth. A hollow came at the foot ran 
up through the towering frame. The tree 
became a living shell, hiding a body of 
death. By and by bees found it the hol- 
low became a chamber of sweets. A dark 
bee -hunter found the hoard, and set his 
mark upon the tree. A little later a rival 
hunter discovered it, stole the honey, and 
sought to conceal the theft with fire. 



138 

Kindled in the hollow root, it roared up- 
wards like a furnace. All the huge top fell 
rent and riven as it touched the earth. 
Part of the stout shell defied the flame, and 
stands blackened, leafless, branchless an 
obelisk of ruin. 

Through a hollow in its base you may 
walk upright. A rough blanket curtains it. 
Within you find a locker with great store 
of towels and bathing-sheets. Wrap you 
quickly in one, and run, barefoot, to the pool,, 
there to plunge and lave you to your soul 
and body's content. 

Wade, float, splash. The pool at its deep- 
est comes but well under your chin. There 
you may drop all hampering vesture, to 
clothe yourself luxuriously with water. Ah ! 
the creamy, thrilling chill of it. Involunta- 
rily you laugh aloud, flinging handfuls of 
diamond drops high above your head that 
the filtering sun-rays may turn them all to 
rainbow-;. 

Vagrant rays are they, dripping in through 
the bank's thick leafage. But overhead you 
see the sky. Behold ! there, too, is a rain- 
bow vivid, yet broken against scurrying 
clouds that chase one the other out of a 
darkening west. What saith the weather- 
prophet 



139 

" Rainbow at morning, 
Shepherds take warning." 

There will be foul weather ere sunset. 
The wind proclaims it, blowing in low, sob- 
bing gasps, with breathless spaces between. 
In the far empyrean warring hurricanes are 
marshalling their legion clouds. Under 
them a belt of air lies, absolutely stirless. 
There is never a wave amid its faint white 
cirrus lines. This fitful wind goes barely 
so high as the tallest tree-tops. And still 
the sun shines. 

Not wan and watery, but with all his 
golden strength. The warmth, the bright- 
ness of him, befool one brave red-breast to 
pipe his fair-weather song. Or was it, in- 
deed, some belated Dryad, or gnome, or elf, 
overtaken by the dawn, and winging now 
away to shelter in the wood's dark, peace- 
ful deeps ? Truly, the note is heavenly 
round, full, wildly sweet. Eerie almost in 
this brooding hush, through which you smell 
now the subtile fragrance of new rain fall- 
ing a mile beyond. 

Reclothe you, and climb the farther hill. 
From its top see the long, slant, silver lines 
sweeping up the clear valley. The road 
runs wide and level, straight into the heart 
of the rain. Breathe the cattle a minute 



140 

then away, away, as though Death lay be- 
hind, Paradise before. 

Away ! away ! The air sings in your ears ; 
wide fields reel past; the hedge-row trees 
show tall, green - sheeted ghosts. Horse 
and rider are at one drunken with wine 
o' the morning. Trifle's pink nostrils are 
aflame. She snuffs the breeze, lays her 
small ears back, and, with a low, exultant 
whinny, leaves Princess a length behind. 

For the wink of your eyelid only. The 
black mare is at her quarter her girth her 
shoulder; the dark crest flashes past the 
bright one ; two pairs of eyes gleam with 
emulous fire. 

Neck and neck, with spurning hoofs, with 
straining muscles, in the wild, electric rush 
of generous blood, they cleave the rain-wall, 
heedless alike of thunder pealing overhead, 
of lightning flaring yellow and spectral on 
the earth at foot. Ever and anon a flying 
hoof is tipped with fire. Truly, blood tells 
and no dead giant of all their famous 
line ran ever a gallanter race. 

What drops fall so fast out of this rainy 
heaven ! So big, so bright, softly warm as 
a dream of summer. The kiss of them, as 
they pelt you and patter, is something for 
glad remembrance all the days of your life. 



14 1 

For one brief minute it endures then the 
good beasts have borne you into the clear 
shining beyond. 

From this high hill of vantage you see 
a dozen showers, with sunlight laughing 
through, chasing one the other across this 
green, good world. But little reck you of 
shower or shining. You ride as for life, 
your blood at racing pace, your nerves 
athrill, tingling to your finger -tips, crying 
out exultant as your speed outstrips the lan- 
guid wind. 

Five miles of it then the road runs 
downhill. You need barely draw rein the 
soft, wet clay is sure footing and safe. Now 
you splash through the creek, and go more 
soberly along the wood road a vista of 
shadows 

" Lovely, lonesome, cool, and green." 

It runs away from Fairyland. There is 
the home gate, looming dark and dripping. 
Beyond it lie corn, and cattle, and men at 
work in tHe fields. You pass through, and 
find you again in the world of every-day. 




AUGUST LILIES 



garden blossoms they, but 
creatures of field and wood. 
Leave the level lowlands, so 
burdened with summer's lar- 
gess of grain and fruit, and 
ride into the hill-country. The narrow red 
road winds betwixt quaint, ragged fields, all 
whose fences are bedraped with vine and 
brier. Here and there you see log-houses, 
with big outside chimneys all overgrown 
with the scarlet trumpet-vine. Down be- 
tween the hills spring -fed runnels make 
sparkling threads of silver. In the nar- 
row levels on either hand the hill - folk 
raise their scant crops. The hill sides, 
cleared for fire and fencing, have been cul- 
tivated until the soil is gone. Now they 
gleam red and bare in spots, seamed with 
deep gullies, and sparsely beset with wild 
growths. In betwixt the clumps you see 
lilies by thousands. How they live, what 
sustenance they find in the stiff clay, is 



143 

one of Nature's kindly mysteries. But there 
they stand and grow and blow. Year by 
year the carpet of yellow-green fans spreads 
farther and farther, and sends up new blos- 
som-tipped lances to put the ogre Barren- 
ness to flight. Where the road dips, look 
up on either hand. Saw you ever aught 
more enheartening than this springing of 
fresh beauty from desolation ? It is an 
army of hope. Its banners are orange 
flecked with scarlet. Mark how lithely 
they bend and sway in summer's sweetest 
wind! One small, six -cleft cup would go 
quite unnoticed. Here, in serried ranks, 
thousand upon thousand, they spread a 
glory of sun and summer over the waste 
places of the land. Leave them ungath- 
ered , they are creatures wholly of the open. 
Besides, they yield fruit after their kind 
a sort of glistening berry that in winter 
keeps many a wild thing from hunger. 

Come away to the woods. They are 
green and thick and deeply shadowed, with 
damp black earth at foot. Winter and spring 
it is a quaking bog, where you might sink 
at any incautious step. Now you may go, 
free and fearless, to its very heart, and fling 
yourself down upon a moss carpet where 
the foot sinks out of sight. A little way 



144 



off is a clear, stagnant pool ; a red-bird flut- 
ters in the shallow of it, two squirrels come 
down to drink, and all about in the soft 
margin you see the footmarks of all man- 
ner of woodland creatures that slake their 
thirst with these bitter waters. The pool 
lies, a cairngorm mirror framed in ebony 
and emerald. The water of it drains through 
fallen oak leaves and oak roots, and takes on 
a translucent brown. At one edge stand two 
or three big trees that the stagnant water 
has killed. Their branches have dropped, 
leaving columnar trunks that the climb- 
ing poison-ivy has covered to the topmost 
point. Was ever aught fairer than this life 
embracing death ? Overhead the straight 
sun-rays stream down, and are tossed back 
in golden shimmers from the flashing water 
to play hide-and-seek in the intimate green- 
ery of the vines. All is still so still ! A 
ruby -throat flashes out from among the 
green columns. Your eye follows. He is 
poised on dazzling wings before something 
white and slender and lightly waving in one 
of the dark forest aisles. This wet wood- 
land is free of undergrowth. You run after 
the bright bird, and find the fair lily of the 
woods, treasure - trove only of true sylvan 
solitudes. 



145 

What a contrast to the starred hill flower ! 
What thick-fleshed dark green leaves, fairly 
palpitant with sap ! What sturdy, stately 
stalks ! What breath of balm from the still 
dewy heart ! Science will tell you this is 
no lily a trillium, wise folk call it. Within 
her star of narrow outer petals the blossom 
spreads, a six-sided cup of thinnest, most 
flawless pearl, full of gold-tipped stamens, 
and with a drop of clear honey oozing from 
the pale green heart. Ruby-throat sips with 
pure delight, and goes away with a gold pow- 
dering upon his green glistening coat. A 
drowsy humblebee comes after him. Though 
she blossom so apart, the woodland queen 
never lacks for wooers. How should she, 
indeed, when all the air is heavy with her 
breath, when each breeze that kisses her 
perforce whispers the sweet secret to all 
other winged things ? A rare blue butter- 
fly floats in after Master Humblebee. He 
would be worth many times his weight in 
silver to an enthusiastic collector. It is 
only in such environment that you ever find 
him, and even here rarely once in the year 
His wings must be quite four inches across; 
dull silver underneath ; on top, a velvety 
silver blue, with spots of pearl and scarlet ; 
and in the centre a big blur of darker blue. 
10 



146 

Gather a stalk or two of lilies, enough to 
satisfy the lust of possession. Possibly they 
will revive after the outing is over, particu- 
larly if you bind them with damp moss and 
leaves. 

Curiously this marshy wood lies atop the 
hill country. Go across it another way 
through lanes, and along bridle-paths, skirt- 
ing some babbling stream. Now the road 
climbs sharply, then dips to a huge pond. 
There is a crossway track through it, where 
the water is barely ankle-deep. Either side 
it would swim man or horse, if swimming 
were not impossible for the rank growth 
eddying and surging through it. Mark the 
huge round leaves, as big as a small um- 
brella each, with stems thicker than your 
finger. They cover the face of the water, 
and run riot over it. What tangle and 
cable of stems must be hidden in its murk ! 
The wreathen carpet of green bosses is all 
starred with flowers cream -white, many- 
petaled, with a fleshy golden disk for heart. 
It is the yellow lotus, lovelier even than 
Egypt's own flower. A perfect blossom, 
with the width of your two hands. They 
are sun -flowers, if they do not claim kin- 
ship with the Sphinx. His first beams fall 
on their opened hearts ; his last see them 



147 



drowsily folded. Here, in its own place, 
queening it over the rocking leaves, with 
the setting of field and sky, what so mag- 
nificent ? Is it not well worth a day's ride 
to see breadths of such bloom ? There is 
no crowding. Each royal blossom is set in 
its own sufficient green space. Yet you 
take away the sense of a tossing sea of 
leaves, with foam of cream -white flowers 
cresting each wave of it. By and by, when 
the frost comes, the flower- hearts will be 
round capsules set all over with sweetish, 
oval, nutty seed. That is what gives it the 
name of water chincapin. Cut a generous 
sheaf of blossoms you will never break the 
tough stems then thank God that it seems 
good to Him to make lilies of the field, the 
wood, the water. 




THROUGH FIELDS AFLOWER 



,O in the full sunshine. Theirs 
is not a beauty that needs the 
glamour of dawn and dew. 
Through the long days of high 
summer earth has drunk sun- 
shine and steeped herself in vital force. Now 
she gives it back tenfold. All her waysides, 
her waste places, are flushed and gilded. 
Purple and scarlet and yellow run riot all 
over her face. Stubble is sown thick with 
tall stalks of evening- primrose so thick, 
indeed, that the fine pale blossoms gleam 
starwise over its green breadth of weeds. 
And what sweetness wells up from their 
powdery hearts ! a heavy, clinging fra- 
grance that makes of the languid breeze the 
wafts of a censer. Each flower, too, uplifts 
a golden cross, as though Nature's priest, 
duly anointed to shrive the dying Summer ! 
For she is dying, though her doom is writ 
in flowers. True, the rose remains, and lag- 
gard lilies linger in garden nooks. But here 



149 

in the hedge-row the craven milk-weed, six 
weeks past blossom, flings a silky flag of 
truce to the coming conqueror Autumn. 
And all about hill-slope, pasture, and way- 
side wall golden-rod shimmers in masses of 
brazen yellow. Humblebees love it beyond 
all other flowers. Indeed, it is in some sort 
manna in the August desert to all winged 
things. Tiny butterflies, white and yellow, 
haunt and hover about it in fluttering clouds. 
Honey-bees and the curious wood -wasps 
grow drunken upon its sweets. All day they 
cling, drowsing deliciously, to its blossom- 
ing plumes. Night even does not always 
sober them, though it bring dew heavier 
than a summer shower. 

Leave them undisturbed. A little while, 
and their lotus-eating must end. There are 
tenantless sprays aplenty to make a sheaf 
in which you may set the iron-weed's umbel 
of richest purple. Surely Tyre's own hue 
did not rival it. The law of compensation 
runs through all of nature's works. The 
primrose, dying in daylight, yet perfumes a 
waking world. And this rough, weedy stalk 
waves high above your head a crown for 
which " royal " is all too poor a word. And 
what prince of Holy Church ever outglowed 
the cardinal-flower, now gleaming in slender 



I5Q 

scarlet beauty in the swales and along the 
runnels! In good neighborhood you find 
dittany, once sacred to Venus, and still ac- 
counted a potent philter by some simple 
folk who surely should know better. If 
there is magic, it must lie in the smell. The 
flower is minute, an ugly reddish-purple, and 
the reddish stalks and yellow-green leaves 
rarely grow higher than your hand. In the 
moist places, too, you find clematis, trailing 
drifts of green-white stars over whatever is 
within reach. No wonder it climbs and 
clings ! Each leaf stalk is a tendril ready 
to lay hold of the smallest coign of vantage. 
No wonder, either, that it so covers the face 
of earth ! Its seed is legion. Even now the 
first blossoming has changed to green feath- 
ery sprays that at the touch of frost will 
launch by tens of thousands their winged 
argosies. 

Here be vagrants, stolen from prim gar- 
den-beds, and laughing in light over their 
freedom. All this fence corner is crowded 
with tall pink rocket. The rosy panicles 
nod saucily amid the tangle of wild grape 
and brier. What scent they have, what col- 
or, what robust richness of crowded bloom . 
A little way farther you find poppies a rank 
cluster, white, drooping, thick -fringed ex- 



haling the very breath of slumber from their 
deeply hidden hearts. Years ago a chance 
seed lodged in the root of a huge stump. It 
grew up, blossomed, and bore seed after its 
kind. It fell on good ground and safe, and 
now the mouldering wood is each summer a 
mound of white blossoms. A little later the 
gatherer of simples will come and cut pop- 
py-heads to dry and mix through her hop 
pillows, that are the sov'reignest thing on 
earth for wakeful souls. If she leaves but 
one there will still be a plentiful sowing for 
next year's flowers. 

In number as the sands of the sea, in dif- 
ference as the stars of the sky, the aster 
spreads her milky-way of blossom over field 
and wood and highway and hedge -row. 
Here a tall clump waves its rims of purple 
and hearts of gold defiantly above your 
head ; there a thousand small white sprays 
cover the earth at your feet. Between, each 
note of color, each gradation of size. If one 
star differeth from another in glory, how 
much more one star-flower ! Small or great, 
they bloom and bourgeon, and in large part 
make up the glory of " the happy autumn 
fields " gorgeous autumn, whose harbinger 
and sign -manual is burned in yellow and 
red on this green late-summer world. See 



152 

that branching road- side walnut. All its 
leaves are pale gold. So many strew the 
earth beneath that you see the tracery of 
trunk and boughs. The more clearly that 
poison-ivy clothes them as with a garment, 
and all its leaves are the fine ruby crimson 
that some mystics make the true color of 
life. One who is fanciful might look, and 
easily persuade him that he saw here a soul 
of fire burning through a golden shell. 
Blackbirds, though, have no eyrie fairer. A 
full hundred of them perch amid the red 
and yellow, and shatter the sweet silence 
with jarring cries. They know, these small 
creatures, that growth is past, fruition at 
hand. Before the garnering is ended they 
will wing away, nor be seen again till a new 
summer shall blush along the hills. 




WHAT SAITH SEPTEMBER? 



FAIR month, truly golden 
fair, spiced with breath of the 
orchards, the vineyards' winy 
smell. Now springing root, 
now swelling bud, now waking 
seed, make answer for the ten talents, the 
five, the one, wherewith spring saw them 
laden whereto summer brought usufruct. 
Or great Qr small, the tale of them is made 
up. Woe to the land if frost, if drought, 
have left it lank and lean ! 

Come away to the thicket where the mus- 
cadine trails free. A rampant vine, climb- 
ing, sprawling, 

" The silver morns, the burning noons, 
Lie tranced amid its bright festoons." 

Up under them, all about you, see by twos, 
by threes, by fives the sweet, rough-rinded 
fruit, twice the bigness of your thumb's 
end, thick- dusted with blue- black bloom. 
The smell of it fills the wood-side a deep 
musk odor, heavy, palpable with yet a 



154 



tang vinous, savage, as its coiling, assert- 
ive stem. The charm, the languor, of the 
far East are in it, curiously in leash with the 
new West's vital crudeness. 

Eat of the fruit sweet to the taste, bitter 
to the tongue, melting-full of fine, sharp, aro- 
matic juice. If you have Job's patience, 
even in part, it will yield you wine o' the 
rarest. Pick for it only fair, large fruit 
ripe, sweet, full - flavored. Press each 
black-bloomed globe 'twixt the fingers and 
thumb till juice and pulp fall out, then fling 
away the skin. Therein lies the burning 
roughness the ill, fox-grape flavor. From 
the hulled meats you shall drain liquor fit for 
the gods. A mcnth of hiss and bubble, six 
of fining, fattening upon the lees a pink, 
sparkling flow shall rejoice your eye, your 
palate, put heart into your doing, fill all your 
soul with color, warmth, perfume. Crushed 
and pressed with the hulls, there will be only 
red roughness, muddy, bitter, good to no 
use of edifying, yet mounting to the head. 
Of a verity, Earth, our mother, gives the 
vine ; man, her child, must answer for its 
use, its abuse. 

All the earth lies dry and warm, and pal- 
pitant in sunshine. The touch of it is vital. 
Lie at length here in the pasture, prone on 



155 

its springy turf, and let the strength of it, 
the sweetness, the balm of healing, lap your 
tired soul to the Elysium, sleep such sleep 
as comes never within four walls, or to the 
downiest couch ever fashioned by man's 
hand. Sleep, and dream not. This the 
hour of fruition, needs not to borrow charm 
of such insubstantial stuff. A full world 
and goodly lies all about. Upland, orchards 
blush red and yellow; lowland, stubble, 
meadow, corn-field, chant in high, colorful 
notes a swelling prelude to Nature's har- 
vest-home. 

What scent comes out of the corn-land 
rare, fine, subtile as breath of elfin flowers ? 
All the russet rustling stretch is steeped in 
its balm. You drink it in long gasps, and 
turn away, sighing it is full, so full, of 
spring, and dew, and dawn, and hope, and 
youth. Only pease - blossoms ! See the 
matted, leafy tangle of them all under the 
corn. The painted, patient winged flower 
shows white or pinky-purple or palest melt- 
ing blue. Now where be Cobweb, Moth, 
and Mustard -seed this field-sprite's good 
compeers Titania, Bottom all the fairy 
crew ? Who knows but if you lingered into 
moonrise you might find them all at revel 
here, with Master Pease-blossom for host. 



156 

In his cool, green fastnesses of shadow they 
might lurk and leap even through garish day. 

Maybe they sing, those small people, to 
keep earth from bewailing her silent birds. 
All her green, shady ways teem with winged 
creatures big, lumpy fledglings, not yet 
steady of wing ; early broods, all aruffle with 
conceit ; old folk, spent and voiceless, in the 
strain after smart new clothes. Song is a 
memory. They flutter and preen in silence, 
hopping from branch to bough, hovering, 
fluttering, skimming low to earth, with head 
aside and quick up-glancing of eyes. Now 
and again a dropping note breaks through 
the fresh, sweet morning, the hushed, dewy 
eve. By and by they will be singing farewell 
to this summer land. Already blackbirds 
settle, in winged clouds, upon tall tree-tops, 
and sit faintly debating their southward 
flight. They tarry in this Jericho till their 
wings are well-grown their voices as well. 
Before they go hence you shall hear from 
them clamor indeed a wild, harsh, metallic 
crying, utterly discordant, yet full of bar- 
baric charm. 

Master Oriole flew away at the first red 
leaf. Too much an aristocrat for large 
families, his nestlings came to full flight be- 
fore the summer ended. Besides, his is a 



157 

journey of halts. He travels at ease, as be- 
comes a gentleman of leisure. Fifty miles 
this week, a hundred the next and still the 
next, soon bear him safe below the line of 
frost. Everywhere he is grand-seigneur to 
the tips of his wings. No plebeian flocking 
for him. He disdains other company than 
his own small family, even though it wear 
his royal black and yellow. 

Not so Robin Redbreast. A true dem- 
ocrat he, haunting your door-step, singing 
so free from his mud nest in the fence, rear- 
ing two, it may be three, broods each year 
massing him, at last, with a dear five hun- 
dred chirping fellows, for his cheery follow- 
ing of the waning sun. As yet he has no 
mind of it. See him sleek, full -breasted, 
with an eye of meditative content pecking 
about the grass. Is he not the moral of a 
thrifty farmer who has put on his new Sun- 
day suit to look over his bursting barns ? 
Robin takes no shame for the pen-feathered 
rawness of his late young brood. They are 
in the world their own wits, legs, wings, 
must make and keep them of it. Thus, too, 
the farmer to his brood. Often from that 
self-reliant school come men who make his- 
tory no doubt, too, birds of clearest song, 
of strongest wing. 



158 

Winter has no terror for the bluebird. 
Here in the land of his birth he flits and 
sings a true provincial, clinging ever more 
and more to dear, familiar, homely ways. 
The redbird bears him company. So does 
that pert, black-coated fellow, with rust-red 
breast, and smart small-clothes of lavender. 
"Joe Ree," the country folk call him, from 
his last insistent note. He nests low on 
the ground, in some sedge tussock, or the 
spreading ambush of a branchy weed. His 
song mounts aloft a bubbling melody of 
trills and turns, sounding always higher, 
clearer, to the last rollicking call, "Joe-ree! 
joe-ree ! joe-ree-ter !" 

He fares far afield a shy fellow that 
only the wind, the rain, the dew, the wood- 
sprites know intimately. These flights of 
circling swallows cling to human company. 
Almost they cover the face of the sunset 
sky wheeling, dipping, closing to ever-nar- 
rower round, as one by one they drop to 
shelter in the tall chimney-throat. Within 
it, the rumble of their fluttering wings is 
thunderous, yet the farm-folk would on no 
account drive them away. Lightning never 
strikes the chimney wherein swallows roost 
at least so they firmly believe. They 
think, too, with Dan Shakespeare, 



159 
"Where this bird bides, the air is delicate." 

What wonder they have welcome for the 
winged protectors from wrath of heaven and 
plagues of earth? Only sharp frost shall 
banish this circling multitude. Through 
chill mornings they lie late abed, nor stream 
away till nine o' the clock, to skim and 
wheel high under the waning sun. When 
the pinch comes they vanish, nor pause nor 
stay their wings till the southland welcomes 
them. Year after year their constant wings 
return to the birth - spot, there to mark 
spring's high flood. 

A jocund time this should be. The earth, 
the fulness thereof, lies smiling peace to a 
perfect heaven. Yet somehow there creeps 
in an under-note a wailing minor of loss 
and waste. Faint, ah, so faint ! you hear it 
in the singing waters, the full, rich, rustling 
leaves, the low winds sighing out of the sky 
to lose them as wafts of balm. Through 
them September saith to this fair world, 
" Laugh, dance, lie in the sun ; eat, drink, 
and be merry. To-morrow you must die." 



IN "THE MOON OF FALLING 
LEAVES" 




afield eVery day of it. 
Whether sun shines, or rain 
drips, or white frost bites and 
stings, you shall find a liberal 
education in the hectic beauty 
of death ; not cruel death, but a tender doom, 
sweet with the glory of full harvest, and 
spanned with the rainbow of spring resur- 
rection. Truly, the red men called it well 
"the moon of falling leaves." Each waft of 
winy air brings fleets of fairy argosies rus- 
set, scarlet, gold, and crimson to anchor 
on the breast of earth. With what drifts of 
them the south wind covers fallow and grass 
land ! All the woods are pathless now 
footway, cart track, mill road, alike knee- 
deep in leaves. The highway, even, broad 
and beaten though it be, shrinks to a ghost- 
ly trail through a fluttering world of color. 
Here big walnuts overhang it, and overhead 
you see the blue heavens through lacework 



of bare black boughs, with the faintest flut- 
ter of lingering leaves. A little farther, you 
tramp through the hickory flat. Is there 
magic abroad ? Have genii or gnomes 
caught you suddenly into a golden world ? 
There is gold all about you overhead, un- 
derfoot. It must be these lithe, gray-stemmed 
woodland giants stored all of sunshine in 
their hearts, and now exhale it through their 
leaves. In the grayest day here is warmth 
and splendor a flame of radiance that 
makes yet darker the sombre oak-wood. 
Now, when soft winds sift out of a cloudless 
sky, what words shall paint its splendid lan- 
guors, its glory of scent an4 light and col- 
or ? At foot the foliate gold treads softer 
than velvet. A clean, burning fragrance 
uprises as you press it. Here is not only 
leaf, but fruit nuts of all sizes, all flavors. 
It is their bruised hulls that you smell, 
though upon damp mornings the leaves are 
hardly less fragrant. The wood is alive 
v/ith squirrels. See the pair frolicly chas- 
ing one the other around a huge shagbark ! 
They are young ones who as yet know not 
the burden of existence, whose pressure 
sends so many others hurrying, scurrying, 
all the day long, laying up store of nuts 
against the coming cold. These two have 
ii 



162 



but just set up housekeeping in a conven- 
ient hollow of the big, bending oak. Life 
has so far meant to them a summer of buds 
and berries and milky corn and green, ten- 
der nuts, with sleep in a leaf cradle rocked 
by summer winds, and morning scampers 
through seas of dew - wet boughs. Only 
glimmering instinct tells them of imminent 
deadly change. What wonder that they 
make ready against it in such light-hearted, 
haphazard fashion ! Now they cease their 
scamper, and drop down to earth, burrow- 
ing daintily in its deep leaf carpet ! One 
rises upon his haunches with a nut in his 
jaws. The other darts to seize it, and for 
a minute the two roll over and over, a furry 
ball with two waving, plumy tails. It flies 
swiftly apart ; the finder hops upon a rotting 
tree trunk to chatter malicious triumph. His 
mate scurries up likewise, and sits dejected 
a foot away as his sharp teeth pierce the 
hull. She has quite given up the contest, 
and is sore-hearted over it. Nuts are plen- 
ty, indeed, but surely her new husband need 
not show such selfish pride in the first find. 
Presently she creeps past him to the log's 
other end. He looks sharply after her, out 
of the corner of his eye, then darts to her 
side, pats her lightly betwixt the ears, and 



163 

as she turns to fate him drops the nut of 
contention safe within her two dainty paws. 
At once she falls to ravenous gnawing. He 
looks on a minute, then rubs his head ca- 
ressingly against her, and hops away for 
new treasure-trove. They will take home 
scarce a dozen nuts the day ; but surely 
they risk nothing by such delicious idling. 
What if the children do carry away the 
shagbarks, the butternuts, the hazelnuts, 
chestnuts, black walnuts even, here are 
acorns pattering down, a russet hail, hardly 
less sweet and toothsome to these shy wood- 
rangers. 

What various charm lies in this fruit of 
the oak ! See these shallow, fine-grained 
cups filled with long, glossy, brown-black 
ovals, and growing in clusters of twos, of 
threes, of fives, so thick along the tensile 
white-oak branchlets! The post-oak's cup 
will scarce go on your little finger, and clus- 
ters daintily at root of tufted leaves. " Chin- 
capin acorns," the children call them. You 
can bed near a dozen of them in one of the 
over-cups' big, deep-fringed shells. Spanish- 
oak acorns are dark, delicate, graceful as 
the tree itself. Red oak, turkey-oak, yield 
rough, commonplace mast. You might gath- 
er all by the bushel in any ten yards of 



woodland. Besides, are there not acres of 
sweetish rich beechnuts along the bottoms 
and upland hill-sides, to say nothing of hips 
and haws, persimmons, and such small deer ? 

In the oak-wood leaves lie heaped and 
mounded. How they rustle and spring as 
the foot presses them ! Even in death they 
keep the impress of strength. Especially 
the black-jack's crimson foliage, richest in 
hue of all the sisterhood. The tree is not 
handsome gnarled, scrawny, rough of bark, 
with stiff limbs angularly outspread from the 
crooked trunk. " Too crooked to lie still." 
the woodsmen say, even after you have 
painfully chopped to the knotty heart and 
sent it crashing to earth. For eleven 
months of the year it stands, a sylvan Cin- 
derella, so uncouth that the very birds laugh 
it to scorn. Frost changes all that hangs 
a mantle of rubies over all the boughs. The 
glory deepens, brightens, endures. Far into 
November you may see the flush of it glow- 
ing sparsely along field and wood-side. Oft- 
en the red, glossy leaves dance down with 
the first snow, and show like autumn's life- 
blood staining the mantle of her conqueror. 

What charm fills all the fields ! Frost, 
like adversity, makes an end to weeds, yet 
hardly sears grass and grain. What a faint, 



165 

tender hue tinges the fallow where sprout- 
ing wheat upthrusts its tiny spears ! Mead- 
ows show green as in May. From plough- 
land you sniff the fine, subtle fragrance of 
new -turned earth; athwart and between 
hedge-rows wave flames of sumach and sas- 
safras, all awreath with clematis and wild 
grape and wax-leaved bramble-brier ; par- 
tridge-vine, too, brave in deep-green leaves 
and coral-red berries. It puts to shame the 
laggard flowers that yet lurk in sheltered 
nooks. Aster, golden - rod, even the deep- 
blue gentian, look poor and pale by con- 
trast. Spice-wood, though, quite outdazzles 
it. All the thicket is aflaunt with its red, 
red fruit and big, rough leaves. Up among 
them Indian-turnip thrusts her glowing cone 
a torch of flame to light the summer's 
flitting. Ginseng, too, holds up even richer 
red. Is it not wonderful that the flower of 
it so pale, so weak, so utterly without dis- 
tinction should be forerunner to such splen- 
dor ? Is it not typical of some lives ? But 
why vex you with speculation when such 
sweet haze rims the world, such airs breathe 
through, and over all sifts the long benedic- 
tion of sunlight and falling leaves ? 



ALL IN A MIST 




wake into a ghostly world, 
where thick, white dampness 
clings and abides. It is the 
dead Summer's winding-sheet, 
pitifully spread by Nature, our 
mother, to soften the scathe and ruin of 
black frost. Day and night her bond-slave, 
the South Wind, has sucked, roaring, from 
the far gulf these billowing vapors that kiss 
and cling, and weep soft tears for the flow- 
ers they cannot bring back to life. 

Dawn-light is shrouded to dullish gray- 
dark. Cocks crow through it, faint and 
spectral. Cattle low dully, as though send- 
ing their voices astray in some vast void. 

Presently a fine, clear note sifts through 
the blurred noises penetrant, vibrant as 
the call of fairy bugles. Bob White is drift- 
ing afield. An early riser he. That is his 
feeding cry, never lieard save just after 
autumn dawns. They are constant small 
creatures he and his sort. No matter how 



far afield the daylight may see them, twi- 
light finds them always close to the home- 
nest. 

A pretty sight, indeed, if you can but 
manage to steal upon it. There will be 
twenty, thirty it may be fifty small brown 
creatures, huddled all together, their striped 
heads aring outside. At the touch it breaks 
up into whirring wings or scurrying feet, 
running hither and yon. Not till the in- 
truder is miles away will they begin calling 
one to another through the hushed dark. 

Wondrous weather-wise, too, are these 
small deer. If they breakfast with cheery 
piping, feeding straight away to the woods, 
look for a hot, dry autumn day, full of windy 
sunshine. When they hug the thickets 
close snow is in the air ; when they make 
for thick, rough cover sedge, briers, high 
grass bitter winds will come out of the 
north to freeze your marrow, to cut and sting. 

They are peeping now from the corn-land 
it will be warm and wet all day. A clear, 
jangling chorus cuts sharply through their 
calling. Field-larks are at Matins twenty 
yellow-breasts arow upon the big oak, for 
so long a landmark of the pastures. Its 
huge boll is dank and dark, all its big limbs 
dripping. The plashing drops beat a fairy 



i63 



tattoo to accent the melody of these small 
throats. Merry Master Yellow-breast, you 
have no fear of ghosts. All in the white 
cloud you break your heart of music to hail 
the new day. 

Slow, faint, yet ever-brightening it comes. 
Low, level sunbeams dissolve in the mist 
and distil them tears of radiance from 
sparse red and yellow leaves. How slow 
they fall from this blood - red gum - tree 
slow and still as the passing of a dead, dear 
hope. 

Uplift the face to them. May-Day's even 
dew is no more freshening, revivifying. 
Now the air thins, but does not clear. Mist 
still wraps the world- as a garment, but has 
lost its shroud - whiteness and taken on a 
gray translucence. All things are seen as 
in a glass darkly. Even the red boughs 
overhead redly crimson as murder take 
on a tender color as languid airs stir faintly 
through. 

A miracle has been wrought along grass- 
land and hedge-row. You have seen them 
dank or dew-bright this many a time and 
oft. Rarely in such raiment of pearl-sown 
gossamer as now enfolds. All in the bright 
weather the spiders spun it swiftly, deftly, 
with cunning patience. Winds blew low, 



rain did not visit the world too roughly else 
the fairy craft had been vain. It wrought 
too delicately for mortal eyes. You would 
never have known of it but for the generous 
mist that has delighted to embroider it in 
royal fashion. 

Here is a web fit to robe the fairy queen 
herself. There, one scarce the bigness of 
your hollowed palm. Ropes of pearls run 
all about now athwart the path, now from 
some twig of vantage, else dropping from 
point to point of the hedge -row's thorny 
tangle. 

Close and low at its root you see a silk- 
wrought tube, whose clinging meshes have 
trapped a big bumble-bee. Poor, merry, 
clumsy fellow ! All his bravery of gold- 
powdering, his bravado of humming, could 
not save him from the cunning snare, where 
now he lies coffined. Surely, though, the 
mist loved him well. See what jewels, more 
than royal, gleam over the fatal web. A 
prince of the air, he will have truly royal 
sepulture. 

Something falls faintly against your cheek 
a floating filament fast to a twig a dozen 
yards away. There are hundreds thou- 
sands more awave in the humid air. Were 
they spun in mere wantonness, or do they 



I7Q 

serve as railways whereon the spinners run 
swiftly about their world? Up, down, 
across, athwart they go a labyrinth with 
never a possible clue. 

How green the grass shows under it! 
May has not tenderer verdure than these 
new spears. So fresh are they, so smiling- 
bright, what wonder the low cloud kisses 
them. Low and lower it drops. Overhead, 
the eye pierces to far, faint ethereal blue. 
To left, to right, the billowing vapors wrap 
all the world from sight. 

Something whirls through the dimness 
something white with glancing wings. The 
pigeons have left their cote, and dash be- 
wildered through the mist, vainly seeking 
the stubble where daily they feed fat. One, 
not yet fairly in flight, flutters down to your 
feet tremulous, helpless, utterly afraid. 
How the poor heart beats as it lies in your 
hand, all its pretty white feathers aruffle, a 
world of appeal in its soft, clear eyes! 
Touch it tenderly, warm it at your breast. 
A little while, and it will feed from your 
hand, come to call, perch joyfully on your 
shoulder it may be even ruffle and preen 
it upon your arm. A true-love bird it is, 
ready to give you all its warm heart if you 
do but show yourself willing to take it. 



Harsh screams break up the muffled 
morning stillness; there is wild swooping 
earthward of some huge feathered thing ; 
more cries, a great running to and fro. The 
peacocks are awake have been, indeed, this 
two hours yet have barely agreed with 
themselves to leave their roost the tall oak 
by the gate. Gaudy savages are they, all 
and several, yet never was watch -dog so 
vigilant. At the faintest stir their wild 
shrilling murders sleep. It was this trust- 
worthy quality, maybe, that made them the 
bird of chivalry. Your true knight swore 
always " By the peacock and the ladies." 

In general they are no sluggards. It is 
the mist, surely, which has kept them aperch 
till eight o' the clock. How queer .and un- 
gainly the cock - birds look ! long, limp, 
draggle-tailed, darting hither and yon, now 
seen, now vanished a race of feathered 
ghosts. 

For the mist is rolling in, thick and thick- 
er. The south wind is under it ; it must 
fall as rain or rise as cloud. A rift breaks 
through it there far to the right. One hand 
it goes up and up, heaving, tossing, ever ris- 
ing, away to the rimming hills. Within the 
half-hour you shall see it sail down wind, a 
drifting" cumulus, white and high, that by 



172 

nightfall will have a heart of red electric 
fire. 

The other half folds back, rolls away as 
a scroll, to rest, white and wreathen, over 
the tall trees marking the creek's course. 
There the sun, lying so warm on the still 
valley, shall melt it out of sight. Even thus 
early it owns the power of that low, slant, 
golden shining. Underneath it, what drip- 
ping freshness, what vivid, fruity scents, 
what tender smile of late, pale blossoms in 
this the sunset of the year. 




TONGUES IN TREES 



>F Woodland is not vocal to you, 
you must indeed be dull and 
of the earth, earthy. If the 
wood-sprites do but love you, 
what wisdom, what harmonies 
it holds ! Whisperings soft as the breath 
of violets ; clear singing of spread boughs 
in the fine upper air. 

To hear them in full chorus go listen when 
the leaves, fresh-fallen, lie heaped underfoot, 
and through the bare, billowing tree-tops 
the evening-star gleams faint. You shall 
hear then first the strong note of the Oaks. 
Brothers all yeomen of the forest stand- 
ing always at guard ; the same sap thrills 
each core, spite of their different leaves. 

One tree is white and tall and slender, 
with the strength of good courage in its 
tough, tensile fibre. Another is rough and 
ruddy a huge, hearty fellow, brittle and 
coarse of grain. Still another stands dark 
and slim and so straight as to woo the 



174 

woodsman's axe. Yet another uplifts his 
dense, pale column hard, fine, close of 
grain beset on every hand with drooping, 
viny branches. 

Do you not hear them shouting, " For 
Earth our mother," as or light or dark, or 
tall or branchy they do battle with the pow- 
ers of the air? Truly, their locked arms 
are a shield guarding her tender breast 
alike from sun or frost. And what queen- 
mother might not pride her in such serried 
array of good, tall warrior - sons ? ready 
to dare alike the wind's wild wrath, the 
lightning's scathe. If they fall she has 
but to lap them in her soft, cool breast ; 
and from death shall spring the resurrection 
the light -the life. 

Ah ha ! Here is Sir Walnut. The rabid- 
est Red Republican of the wood cannot deny 
him a title as his right. By grace of en- 
vironment he is either knight or courtier. 
Here in the forest depths he soars columnar 
a pillar of sylvan state. It is fifty feet, if 
one, to his feathery crown of boughs. Giv- 
en room o' the fields, he will branch and 
burgeon until a regiment might shelter and 
feast in his shade. 

There is suave grandeur in the rise of his 
boughs, the down-dropping of his twigs and 



175 



branches. Even the straight, seamy outer 
shell seems to say aloud, " Here is no com- 
moner, but wood of the sap royal." Maybe, 
too, in its darkness, it holds more than a 
hint of the dead it shall encoffin. Even 
cedar has not better endurance in damp 
earth. Pioneer hands lay heavy upon it 
when farms were being won from the wil- 
derness. A hundred years later the walnut 
stumps remained to fetch, in many cases, 
more than any intervening crop. 

Master Hickory is a sylvan politician. 
Shadow him, estop him as you will, he 
manages always to creep into full sunshine. 
By preference he grows, stands straight a 
lithe, vital, arrowy fellow, who might dare all 
storms, yet bends to any. A handsome gal- 
lant is he in his green summer bravery, yet 
with eerie suggestions in his bare, blunt, 
writhen autumn boughs. 

"We bow to rise," they say, swaying 
hither and yon in the chill wind. From 
their pliant tossing you would never guess 
what warmth and good cheer and sweet, 
smoky sap are stored up in the trunk. A 
fire of hickory logs is the finest cheerful 
missionary. Even the smoke of it hath 
virtue. It heals green wounds that, too, 
whether you suffer them of mind or body. 



176 

Fair Mistress Tulip -tree, I salute you. 
Truly you may be set down, 

"A daughter of the gods, divinely tall, 
And most divinely fair." 

Fair even o' winter, when you boast only 
your lacy branches, your smooth, gray- 
purple bark. What words shall paint you 
when summer winds lose them in your love- 
crown of flowers, when bird and bee lie 
afaint in the Elysium of your bloomy 
breast? What is it you sigh down your 
slender height ? " Loving is living !" Then 
must you be blessed indeed, O Madonna 
of the forest! The Sun loves you, the 
Wind, the Earth and her children, and all 
tender winged things. 

More even than that good white nun, the 
Beech, with her veil of fine twigs, where the 
winter through there cling wisps of her rus- 
set leaves. Truly she is a Sister of Charity, 
flinging food and shelter to bird and squirrel 
and merry child. Full, too, of the meekest 
humility for all her royal port. Up and up 
the eye follows her white height till, for 
very weariness, it is fain to follow no far- 
ther. Years agone Love carved Love's name 
on the smooth lower trunk. Now alack 
for humanity ! the word remains, though 



177 



love and lover are dead and dust. In the 
quaint, tipsy lettering read the tree's sad- 
dening message. " All is vanity," it saith. 
" Life doth fade as a leaf. As for the dead, 
their works do follow them." 

A little space and Wild-Cherry trees cover 
the face of earth. A tall growth and good- 
ly. It rises so straight, so stately, to fill 
the world with its fine, faint almond scent. 
These be woodland senators, justifiably 
proud, nodding one to the other, " After us, 
the judgment." 

Beyond them a Sweet-Gum towers. Sev- 
enty feet of straight roundness to the first 
limb. Will you gainsay that here is a 
knight-errant, rising thus high to spy out 
wrong and oppression ? 

Close beside a Sugar-Maple tosses and 
preens her, conscious of the sweet sap 
treasured at her heart. There is the vil- 
lage belle, intoxicate with her own charms, 
and all oblivious of her sister, the Swamp- 
maple, born tragedy's queen. All through 
the white winter she sleeps, dreaming of 
blood blood that the spring pours over 
her, a rain of scarlet blossoms. 

The Sycamore Scripture's plane-tree 
has surely the legal habit of mind. His 
coat sets so loose he must be forever turn- 

12 



178 

ing it. Besides, he makes a point wherever 
trunk and branches meet. Assuredly the 
causes o' Christendom might be writ large 
upon his leaves. 

Jack Ash is a sailor born lithe and tough 
as becomes one sprung from seed shaped for 
a true fairy-oar. All the family of Poplars 
white, blue, yellow are country gentle- 
men, big, bluff, hearty, upright, and soft of 
grain. Here stand a dozen, none of whose 
girths four men's linked hands could span. 

At one side lies the parent trunk fire- 
scarred, hollow wherein you may stand up- 
right. A bent, gnarled Sassafras grows in 
the crumbling stump of it. While the great 
Poplar towered aloft, the Sassafras clung, 
half starved, to a cleft in its root a very har- 
lequin of turns and twists, at which no doubt 
the monarch of the forest in life was prop- 
erly amused. Now he lies dead, with the 
dwarf mopping and mowing above him, draw- 
ing strength and sustenance from his ruin. 

No doubt you have seen such cases. Life 
is strangely parallel through all its chan- 
nels. Some trees, some souls, grow small 
and crooked, no matter what the environ- 
ment or maybe because of it. 

Here is Dogwood glowing scarlet in the 
berry, maugre her snow of blossom. A true 



179 

prude she with fire under her snow, and 
likewise bitter of heart and root. 

The parable is endless. You may trace 
it on every hand. Tongues there be in 
trees to tell all of human story. The Willow 
waves, drooping in grief ; the Locust flaunts, 
thorny as pride. 

If one star differeth from another in 
glory, how much more one tree? All have 
their uses, their semblances. The rain, the 
sunshine, fall on all alike. From them is 
wrought the sweet, the bitter, each after his 
kind. And who shall say, shall gainsay, 
that sweet or bitter lies nearest the heart of 
Nature, our mother ? 




SUNDOWN 



^IRY-GOLD rims the far up- 
land sky-line. It is the merest 
thread of sunlight lingering on 
oak-woods all arustle in their 
yellow-russet bravery. Above 
them gray-purple haze melts soft up to the 
clear heaven, cloudless, save for the low, 
western bank flaming, fire-scarlet, along its 
upper edge. Truly, you might fancy it some 
dim underworld castle, with storm-winds at 
bay in its thunderous breast and waging 
bloody battle for freedom. 

They must win it ere long. The air is 
tense. Vivid, too, with scent from sere 
grass and ripe fruit and fresh, new-fallen 
leaves. Through the heavy stillness sound 
carries marvellously. The windless caress- 
ing air woos the ear to linger and listen. 

What a medley it brings to the hearing ! 
The pounding and grinding of hoofs, of 
Wheels, upon the highway; the loud rattle 
of heaped wagons straining home from the 



corn -fields; the clamorous low of cattle 
trooping in from outlying pasture-land; the 
keen, hungry squealing of pigs unfed ; the 
house-dogs barking in a dozen farmsteads ; 
now and again a cock's crow breaking 
through. Over all, accenting it into time 
and tune, a ringing rhythm of axe-strokes 
anear and afar. 

What a dear sound it is ! It brings the 
sense of hearth and home, means sweet- 
ness and light, and warmth and love. If 
all the world and his wife could but sit by 
a wood fire, what a lessening there would be 
of the sum of human unhappiness. 

For is it not, indeed, the soul of good 
cheer, made beautifully manifest in billow- 
ing smoke? in leaping flame? red coals? nay, 
even in clean, pearly ashes ? What treason, 
stratagem, or spoil can endure its clear shin- 
ing, or take hold upon a soul warm with its 
vital heat! Envy, malice, and all uncharit- 
ableness must evanish up the chimney. No 
foul thing surely can abide the hearth-fire's 
glow. 

Alack ! the sundown symphony is made 
up, for the most part, of wailing minors, that 
drown the cheery axe-strokeyea, bury it 
out of hearing. Black dark is not so deso- 
late as this cold twilight. It is more pitiless 



182 



even than sunshine to the dim fields bare 
and wide, the waning woods, the hedge- rows, 
heart-broken over their ghosts of flowers. 
From the going down of the sun to the 
coming out of the stars the sky shows a 
hard, unloving brilliance drearier, more 
desolate, than grayest clouds. 

Though no twig stirs in the wood, a sub- 
tile sighing sweeps through it. All the 
Dryads are ashiver for their poor dead 
leaves that soon ah ! so soon the cold, 
white snow shall cover. 

At rest, here in this little clearing at the 
wood's edge, their cry slips into your heart. 
In the open it is still good daylight. Here, 
where trees shut in three sides, all is ghost- 
ly clare-obscure. Is that a ghost calling 
through it ? Verily, it is a weird wailing 
that smites the dusk. Out from the deep 
forest-vista something sails, slow and noise- 
less, upon wide wings, with eyes of green 
fire. A dead tree towers, stark and white, 
just in the middle of the clearing. One of 
the big brown horned owls is flying in to 
perch him upon its topmost point. What 
sweep, what spread of wing he has five 
feet, if one, from tip to tip. What a loud 
flutter of furling as he settles slow upon his 
unsteady perch ! 



183 

Again you hear his cry low, harsh, wail- 
ing. So might a lost soul call back across 
the Styx for the partner of its ill -deeds 
done in the body. The cry is answered 
once, twice, thrice. Other wings are spread; 
other fiery eyes gleam through the deepen- 
ing dusk. Five huge creatures are flapping, 
lurching, hooting atop of this sylvan ghost 
the poor tree, bare of all its pretty frip- 
pery of branch and bough. Only three big 
prongs remain to it. The first comer chose 
the highest for his seat, and perches there 
defiant of the later ones who wheel threat- 
eningly around him. 

Presently there is a bird on each tip, ruf- 
fling hate and scorn at the two who lag 
superfluous on the scene. But the slug- 
gards are in no wise cast down. They have 
pluck, or temper, and to spare. See them 
circle to the clearing's utmost verge, then 
sweep, full flight, upon their fellows so in- 
sultingly uplifted. Mighty human that ! 
Who of us has not burned with the right- 
eousness of our wrath against some con- 
spicuous self-poised usurper our yearning 
to dislodge him ? 

Evidently one of these usurpers is a faint- 
heart, all unworthy to wear his feathered 
spurs. He avoids the shock of battle, 



-184 

drops half-way to earth, checks his descent 
with a quick outstretching of wings, and 
sails off down the "woodland, sweeping so 
low as almost to dazzle you with the gleam 
of his green eyes. 

Peace comes of his exit. The rest some- 
how make terms, and perch together, fling- 
ing their wild, intermittent hooting out into 
the darkening world. What powerful, trem- 
ulous discord they set up ! as audible a mile 
away as here within ten rods. 

From a near hollow oak a screech-owl 
begins to call. How contemptuously the 
big wings overbear and drown the cry of 
their puny congener. He is an odd fellow 
a sort of pretentious poor relation, owlish 
mainly in his voice. That is eerie enough 
in all conscience to superstitious folk, the 
sure forerunner of death or ill-luck; which 
you can, however, avert by flinging at the 
bird either salt or a sweet potato over your 
left shoulder. 

The dusk has other voices. Far down 
the hill a faint cry sounds, and is answered 
from the bluff. Your ear would fail to mark 
it in other than this thick, still, hearing air. 
There is blood-thirst in the cry; cunning, 
too; and the cautious wisdom of experience. 
Reynard the Fox gives tongue but rarely. 



i8s 

Something out of the common must be lit- 
erally in the wind. 

It is something something overhead 
on wings as swift almost as light. High be- 
twixt you and the peeping stars you see a 
dark pyramidal line. A shrill, trumpeting 
challenge drifts down, down. Wild geese 
in flight, and hungry. The wedge breaks 
up wheeling, shrilling, they drop into the 
corn-land and begin to feed. 

Reynard the Fox knew that they would, 
and called his mate to a feast. Of a verity, 
there must be things undreamed of in our 
philosophy. Else how should one wild 
creature thus sense afar off the need, the 
purpose, of another ? 

Looking with all your eyes, you will not 
see Reynard the Fox. For such errand he 
hath sure receipt of fern-seed, and doth walk 
invisible. You cannot help but see that 
furry diplomat, Brer Rabbit. Depend on 
it, his seeming of timid innocence is much 
more than half a counterfeit. He scurries 
out from the brier-patch, almost under your 
feet, goes swift as an arrow down wind over 
fallen leaves to the wood's edge. There he 
will crouch him till you go your way, when 
he will be*off to the orchard for apples, the 
field for corn, and finish with a salad of 
green young clover buds. 



1 86 



Night has fallen fully now, yet brought 
no dark. The sky is aflame with stars, 
burning big and white in its clear round. 
A wind comes out of the north crisp, sting- 
ing, deadly. Morning will shine over ice 
on roadside pools a world thick-powdered 
with diamonds of the frost. Get you in to 
the fireside, there to sit close, forgetting this 
nipping, eager air. You feel the blowing of 
it. Inferior animals, so-called, were warned 
of it at sundown. 




AFTER FROST 

i HEN comes the wine of the 
year. What though flowers 
are nipped and summer birds 
all gone, the world lies lapped 
in liquid melting haze, the 
scent of fruit and corn comes keen from 
field and orchard ; over all, soft, late sun- 
shine sifts in long, low, slanting lines. 
Frost itself is cruel. It comes heralded 
maybe by a thunder-gust ; there is the pour 
of big drops or the pitiless pelting of hail, 
a vivid flash or two, and crashing peals over- 
head. Then out of the northwest sweeps 
something keen and deadly. The clouds 
vanish. All night long that biting breath 
sweeps over the face of earth. At dawn 
the world looks much the same, only flow- 
ers and creepers are oddly stiff. Half an 
hour of sunshine shows what havoc has 
been wrought. Summer lies in ashes, with 
hardly a rose left for her bier. 

All day the sharp wind blows, and for 



i88 



yet another day. Then it veers west, south- 
west, south, and sits steady for a fortnight. 
Breathing rather than blowing, you can 
barely feel it as you walk abroad. The nut- 
woods are a glory of yellow leaves. Over- 
head they have thinned to a mere gold-lace 
against the blue. Underfoot they lie knee- 
deep, a rustling, fragrant carpet, in whose 
depths you find scaly-barks, chestnuts, big 
hickory-nuts, or white walnuts. Black wal- 
nuts are so big and plenty that the sparse 
leaves cannot hide them. A fruitful tree 
will completely cover the spread of its 
branches with the yellow -brown globes. 
For hazelnuts and chincapins you must 
go to the thickets. Both love and cling 
to deep, rich, sunny virgin soil. Unless 
they are very plenty, the squirrels will be 
apt to get all. They are something of epi- 
cures, those small, saucy fellows, and dis- 
dain mere acorns if they can feed on choice 
sweet nuts. See ! They have rifled the 
clusters ; but you need not go away empty- 
handed. A wild grape runs riot here, and 
hangs its black, sweet clusters in easy reach 
quite too easy, in fact. 

You have only to pluck and fill your 
basket, whereas the orthodox thing for a 
grape hunter is either to "pull down the 



vine," or else to climb the sapling that up- 
bears it to the very top, then clasp it with 
both hands and swing off, bringing tree and 
vine to earth. Grapes so obtained have al- 
most the savor of forbidden fruit a wild, 
fresh, woodsy flavor, with a tang of frost 
that no clusters from the vineyard may 
hope to equal. 

A little farther on stand persimmon-trees 
in clumps. The small clear space about 
them held a pioneer's cabin eighty -odd 
years ago. There is no trace of it now, 
save the big flat stones that mark the 
hearth and these thick-growing trees. 

Persimmon beer was the height of liquid / 
luxury in those days. To make it, the ripe 
fruit was gathered, mashed, and kneaded 
with corn meal into big flat cakes an inch 
thick. After baking, these were broken up 
in water, and allowed to ferment. The re- 
sult was a clear, pale, yellow liquid, sweetish- 
sour, with a faint sparkle to it in short, the 
champagne of that primitive era. These 
trees did not furnish it. Instead they 
sprang from seed thrown away in beer- 
making. They are bare of leaves now, but 
hung thick with soft, sweet, tawny- yellow 
globes, thick-dusted with purple bloom. A 
week ago they looked fully ripe, but if you 



i go 

had tasted one the bitter roughness would 
have clung to your mouth half the day. 
Frost has sweetened them. 

It is the same with black haws. Chil- 
dren and 'possums count them well worth 
eating. Grown folk are apt to find too little 
fruit to the amount of seed. Even the birds, 
save in stress of snow, refuse the big, coarse, 
red ones that shine like rubies all over 
thorny branches. The rare, small, red one, 
growing in clusters much like the garden 
currant, is a dainty morsel for any palate. 
It loves the lowland all the hawthorns do 
and seldom grows twenty feet away from 
water. Its leaves are among the last to 
fall. Gather laden branches of it, if only 
for their beauty. Box-elderberries are the 
only things that compare with it. Mark 
the grace of them round beads, true coral 
red, hung in clusters by white stalks from 
out a thick crimson-fleshed bract. See how 
thickly they are sown along smooth, slender, 
green branches that join at almost right 
angles to make up a big bough ! The 
boughs come out as squarely from a smooth, 
yellow-gray trunk. The tree never grows 
very tall thirty feet at most. Frost fairies 
may well choose it for their revels. If it is 
so lovely by daylight, think what it must be 



all aglitter with diamond dust in the gray 
shine of stars ! 

Here the ground is thick with buckeyes. 
Steal one when nobody is looking, and slip 
it into your pocket to ward off rheumatism. 
If anybody sees, the charm is broken. Take 
a handful of crab-apples, too, for perfume. 
They will smell of the wilds while they keep 
a drop of juice. Gather silk-weed pods for 
luck. The darkies say that if, when they 
burst into a torrent of white floss, your 
breath will not blow it away, good fortune 
will abide with you till the silk -weed is 
again in seed. Flowers are scarce enough 
to be precious. This cluster of blue gen- 
tian blooming in the thicket brings joy in- 
deed. Bear it home in triumph ; and if you 
care for curious forms, go through the deep 
oak-wood, and dig up a clump of wax-white 
Indian-pipe as well. Take along some of 
its native earth, and plant the flower, that 
is without leaf or root, in a low, flat bowl. 
Wreathe it with oak-leaves and fern, and lay 
a handful of scarlet sumach so the Indian- 
pipes will peep up through it ; or if you are 
weary of the color riot, leave the earth bare 
except for a few acorns and acorn cups. 
The over-cup, fringed half an inch deep 
about the edge, is handsomest of all. Fail- 



192 

ing that, white -oak or post -oak will do ex- 
cellently well. 

Through clays of splendid languor the 
south wind blows on to dawns of mist, 
wherein spectral trees weep slow tears. 
Each grass-blade wears a diamond. Rab- 
bits frisk and nibble in dew-dim clover. At 
the far verge a red-bird, aperch on a tall, 
swaying weed, swings and sings, and at last 
flies away. Wood-doves, in clouds, hover 
and settle in the corn-field. A flight of 
larks preen their yellow breasts, and chatter 
noisily in the big, bare sassafras that has 
been a hedge-row landmark this many a 
year. Out of the mist above comes the ap- 
pealing cry of a young hawk. He is lost in 
the world of vapor, and calls for his elders. 
Something glimmers in the grass too ten- 
derly yellow for the hue of decay. A dan- 
delion, too impatient to await the spring, 
has flung wide its unminted gold. That 
means sunshine within the hour. The 
flower never opens in face of persistent 
clouds. Even now the ghostly glamour 
fades, a ball of red fire swims overhead, the 
low sky lifts, and an every-day world lies 
smiling up to its maker and builder. 




IN AT THE DEATH 



,HREE o' the clock. A wester- 
ing moon makes cloudy silver 
over all the sky. Now and 
again, through rifts overhead, 
long pale lights dance, drift 
athwart the world, chasing one the other in 
spectral fashion. The fresh earth lies dew- 
damp, plentifully besprinkled with the big 
bright tears, distilled from this warm mist, 
through every bough and twig. Clothe you, 
and stir abroad. Singeth not the ballad- 
monger, 

' ' A southerly wind and a cloudy sky, 
Doe proclaime it a huntynge morning " ? 

In such an one, no doubt, George Washing- 
ton, Esq., set forth, when, as his diary re- 
cords, he " went a-hunting with Jacky Cus- 
tis, and catched a fox." Listen at the river- 
ford the splash and beat of hoofs. Now 
the long note of mellow-winded horns comes 
strongly up-wind, undervoiced with a whim- 
13 



194 

paring chorus of yelps and cries. The fox- 
hunters are out. Not garish gentlemen in 
"pink and leathers," with huntsmen, whip- 
pers-in, and all the rest. Instead, men of 
the soil owners, tillers each with his 
hounds at heel a couple, or two or three. 
See them sweep up the dusk valley, where 
each cross-road and farm-gate sends out a 
new rider. It was reveille, indeed, that the 
hunter's horn sounded under this waning 
moon. 

What riders ! Such as they gave rise to 
the fabled Centaurs. What if they know 
never a trick of manege, of the schools, 
where else shall you find such hand, such 
seat, horse and rider so entirely, so harmo- 
niously, at one ? It is a rhythm of motion, 
wherein grace has wedded strength. Look 
well at the black colt and his master. Mark 
the fire, the spirit, of the beast his fine, up- 
lifted head ; his arching neck, with its thin, 
silky, tossing mane ; his clean, flat legs and 
streaming tail, that the wind sweeps out as a 
very pennon of night. The creature is not 
bridle -wise. Less than a month back he 
knew not bit or rein, or lash or steel. But 
one rider has ever crossed his back the 
lean young athlete there, who sits him so 
light, so firm, so easily swaying, bends him 



195 

to his will with a wrist of iron, yet pats and 
soothes as he might a frightened child. 

Sweetness and strength ! That is all the 
magic. The rein is a channel through 
which intelligence goes most subtly. Fear, 
anger, nervousness, flash along it to the ten- 
der mouth set up their counterparts in the 
poor beast. So, too, do strength, courage, 
radiant good will. The black colt knows 
his rider feels him vividly to the core of 
his quick intelligence will serve him un- 
questioning to the limit of speed and stay. 

Each is a type. See them forge ahead, 
the dogs, meantime, running in leaping cir- 
cles through field and wood either hand. 
What lank, lithe creatures they are you 
see plainly the play of muscles under their 
silken coats. No kennelled darlings they, 
racing, fine-drawn, with coats and pedigrees 
of newest fashion. Yet their blood is rich 
and old. For two hundred years the south 
country has ridden to their like blue-mot- 
tled, black-and-tan, 

' ' With ears that sweep away the morning dew, 
Crook -kneed and dew -lapped like Thessalian 

bulls. 

Slow in pursuit, but matched in mouth like 
bells." 

A whimpering challenge comes sharply 



196 

from the left. Nobody heeds it it is only 
the puppy out for a first run, as yet scarce 
knowing the scent he seeks. Most like he 
is trailing a rabbit but no, what bell-note 
echoes him? Rattler, king of the pack, 
cries loud and free. Sounder, Ring, Speak- 
er, Lovelocks, Lady all the rest break out 
in thrilling jangle, set all the valley aring. 
Up, up it swells, truly a jocund noise, under 
these pale, low clouds, this watery moon, 
this reddening east. They are headed up 
wind ; the cool air comes back to you heavy 
freighted with the wild music. Hoof-beats 
sound sharply through it. The black colt 
is but a fence behind from the leading 
hound? What sharp, exultant shrilling 
comes out from his rider's throat ! All 
the hunt is whooping, yelling, as it streams 
through dusk of dawn. A wild crying, in- 
deed ! one never yet subjugate by mere 
vowels and consonants one, too, that, like 
the seat on horseback, must be learned 
in childhood, practised sedulously through 
youth. 

They would laugh to scorn, these bold 
rough-riders, your "Stole a-wa-ay! Hark 
for-rard ! Tally-ho !" though they come of 
the blood that knew all niceties of venery 
so shouted when the fox broke cover, "Tail- 



197 

Us hors" otherwise, out of the thicket. 
All those dead-and-gone gentlemen of Eng- 
land's good greenwood now are but dry-as- 
dust ghosts, for all their prowess and splen- 
dor. Their sport lives with their race. 
Shorn though it be of form and conse- 
quence, it might warm the cockles of their 
fleshless hearts to see in what lusty strength 
these slips of English stocks keep up the 
pastime of old days. The old order chang- 
eth the natural man survives. While time 
endures, this Saxon, whether of the old world 
or the new, shall love, as he loves naught 
else in life's gift, the flash and leaping of 
trout lured to death in still pools, the sing- 
ing of bullets sped straight and well, the 
breathless ardors of the chase, the race. 

Master Fox has doubled. Now the full cry 
rings down wind. See the dogs tumbling, 
writhing, over that crooked fence. They 
have been running almost on view heads 
up, tails down so close upon their quarry 
there was no need to lay nose to the tainted 
herbage he had crossed. They caught the 
scent hot in the air. All the hunters knew 
it when they heard the last wild burst of 
furious dog -music. So, hearing, they sat 
straighter in the saddle, gave their good 
beasts the spur. A little while, and they 



198 

would be in at the death the next field, 
certainly the next hill-side, must bring it. 

So they crash pell-mell over the low road- 
side fence, as the hounds top the high one 
bounding the pasture - land. Still Rattler 
leads, with Sounder at his collar. But see 
them stop short, fling noses to wind, set up 
a whimpering cry all the pack is at fault. 
Master Fox is passing cunning either 
he has dodged back under the horses' feet, 
or hidden him so snug the dogs have over- 
run him. See the good creatures all lath- 
ery, panting, with lolling tongues run crying 
about the field, dazed out of all weariness 
by this astounding check. 

A minute two three still the trail is 
lost. There is babel of yelps and shouting, 
each master calling loudly to his most trusted 
hound. The black colt champs on the bit, 
frets lightly against the rein. This ringing 
run has but well breathed him the noise of 
it has set his wild blood afire. Or ever 
again hound shall bark, horn shall blow 
about him, he will follow, follow, with, with- 
out, a rider. How fine the daylight shows 
him. Sunrise is past, though no yellow 
beam stabs through this woolly sky. The 
hunters will breakfast late, if they hold their 
purpose to kill before it. A horn breaks 



1 99 

faintly out, is instantly away from lip, and 
all the field in motion. 

Master Fox is cunning, but Lovelocks 
is cunninger. See, she has followed the 
fence a hundred yards up wind, picked up 
the trail where he leaped to earth after run- 
ning along the rails, and is after him, call- 
ing, with all her deepest notes, to man and 
hound to follow and save the honor of the 
field. Beautiful, beautiful see how straight 
she goes ! Her fellows, streaming after, can 
do no more than yelp, as with big, leaping 
bounds they devour the grassy space. Ah ! 
Master Fox, tricks will not serve you, save 
you. You have run gallantly, but Love- 
locks will not be left behind. Nearer, ever 
nearer, she comes to the dark, sweated, hunt- 
ed thing, that seems a mere shadow on the 
grass in front of her, so straight, so skim- 
ming, is its steady flight. Brush down, 
tongue out, he toils, pants, away. If he can 
but reach the woods, his rocky den is in the 
hill-side just beyond. To it he strains yet 
never shall he gain. 

Almost Lovelocks is on him her hot 
breath overruns him ; he swerves darts 
aside doubles but all in vain. Ring is 
at Lovelocks' shoulder, Rattler a yard away, 
with twenty more at back, the black colt 



2OO 



treading almost upon their tails. Quickly, 
cruelly, their jaws close on Master Fox ; the 
black horseman snatches him-away, sends 
a wild yell down wind, blows a long blast 
of his horn. Lovelocks leaps up for a pat 
from his hand, stands aquiver with delight 
as he, her master, flings the carcass at her 
feet before the eyes of all the field. 




GATHERING CORN 



>LOW fair, blow free, O wind of 
the west! Set the bare trees 
all arocking in this world of 
haze. Blue it lies, foldless, 
swathing. Up into it, far to 
south, swims a globe of red fire. This fine, 
blue, clinging Omphale has shorn heaven's 
Hercules of beams, drinks his light into her 
spaces, drips it down, a warm, pale shining, 
over the frosted fields. They lay glistering 
white at day's dawn, thick-sown in all their 
breadth with fine, sharp, pricking crystals, 
crunching under -foot as though you trod 
down a fairy host at guard. 

Black frost, say farmer-folk, foreshadow- 
ing the mark of it. Timely, full of use. 
Now apples shall part freely from the bur- 
dened boughs, and come to the palate with 
a new, fresh tang, infinitely delicious. Now 
all the stubble's weedy, creeping riff-raff 
shall be as smoking flax before the. plough, 
no more to choke and hinder the turning of 



202 



fallow fields. Now, too, corn in the ear 
hangs flint-hard nowhere any sap in stalk, 
or root, or leaf. 

Come away to the gathering ! Not from 
the shock. There, it is mere prosaic snatch- 
ing of ear from husk, with by and by a noisy 
rattle of wagons, a quick tossing in the 
baldest commonplace of labor. Instead, 
you shall go afield in standing corn cross- 
ing to reach it wheat-land late sown, and 
faintly pierced with tenderest, new, small 
spears, each with a diamond on his tip, 
stolen by this warm light from the vanish- 
ing frost. Beyond is the first sowing a 
green luxuriance, matted, dripping, thick 
and tall enough to hide a rabbit a hun- 
dred, indeed, if so many there sought refuge. 
Now you come to the bars. See how snug 
they are laid to one side, quite out the way 
of wheels. Not till night drops down will 
they rest again in socket. All day this 
small, dark person of fluttering jacket and 
baggy trousers will sit here "minding the 
gap," presumably seeing to it that no va- 
grant cow, no acquisitive hog, passes this 
open portal to spoil the corn within. 

Monotonous, you think. He would hard- 
ly agree. He has a knife with one real cut- 
ting blade his bird-trap wants a trigger 



2O3 

here in this vigilant solitude he may hack 
and notch and shape to his heart's content, 
unvexed with pestering mites of brothers, 
sisters, who at home give him no peace. 
Besides, he rides Here in the wagon a full 
half-mile. An imposing chariot truly, withal 
gaudy gaudier even than strong. Wheels, 
and running-gear shine scarlet as sin ; the 
lower body is green, striped red and white, 
and topped with gay yellow side -boards 
that double its depth. 

What rocking bliss to stand peeping 
above them ! The vehicle has never a 
spring. With the team at the trot, what 
shaking of passengers what bouncing, 
bumping, of whosoever dares sit. The 
proper thing is to ride standing feet wide 
and hard-set upon the buffeting foundation. 
If you can but compass it, you may go with- 
out turning a hair, though the mules race^ 
uphill, down dale, across cloddy levels. Six 
of the good creatures gayly pranked out, 
with bright chains all aclank, with harness 
supple and well-oiled. Evidently Jim, the 
wagoner, loves his team next himself bet- 
ter in some points it may be. Every head- 
stall has a wrapping of the gayest scarlet, 
the big, black wheelers flaunt, each at his 
ear, a silver-white ox-tail. The clean-limbed 






2O4 



sorrels at the pole wear, instead, boughten 
tassels. Far in front the trim dun leaders 
show brown-ringed coon-tails at the bridle- 
ear, nodding with each quick stride. So 
Jim, the wagoner, has warded off " conjur- 
ing ;" made it sure, in his own mind, his 
team shall thrive, pull true to the last ounce, 
nor balk in the dark at sight of ghosts. Jim 
is innocent of book-learning, has never 
heard of a fairy yet what he does not 
know of mules, of " spells," is scarce worth 
the telling. 

Wagoning, too. A science that, you may 
take my word. See him sit so straight, so 
light, in the saddle, there, on the nigh wheel- 
er's back, his long whip limply trailing, his 
single rein half clutched. The road turns 
sharply through the open bars so sharply 
you think a single span would have a care of 
passing it how much more this long-drawn 
team. To Jim and his sort it is less than 
nothing. A quick wrist motion, two sharp 
cracks of the whip in air unchecked the 
leaders swing to the turn ; the wheelers fol- 
low ; an inner wheel lifts a little, grinds 
hoarsely, drops to earth, whirls inside the 
field, missing by a foot the nigh post, against 
which it seemed to you it must certainly go 
full-tilt. This trick of wrist and eye this 



205 

poising calculation is the perfectness of 
practice joined to natural aptitude. Wag- 
oners, like poets, are born, not made. Jim 
was in the saddle, master of whip and rein, 
long before his bare toes could reach a stir- 
rup's length. Not under compulsion, either. 
He loves the work it is in the blood. His 
white-headed great-grandfather toothless, 
tottering delights still to tell to all who will 
listen of long trips across sand and clay in 
" ole Ferginey " highways, hauling ole mars- 
ter's crops the hundred miles to tide-water. 
His son drove head of the emigrant-train 
across the Blue Ridge into this new land of 
promise ; his grandson piloted the carriage 
through peaceful, prosperous days. Though 
Jim has been born to freedom, hereditary 
traditions, inclinations, are not less strong. 
He feels him, none the less, born into the 
place of plantation wagoner would be half 
heart-broken if another had his seat. 

His mules his by love, not possession 
rarely know the touch of whip the long, 
leathern snake writhing, coiling, snapping 
almost with noise of pistol-shot, in, around, 
over them. The sound of it is to them as 
the noise of drum and trumpet to soldiers 
on parade. Its quaverings, flourishes, mean 
to them, Go ! Halt ! Trot ! Steady ! Hold 



206 



back ! Pull for life ! They know their driver, 
too well enough, indeed, now and again to 
take a freakish liberty, presuming on his 
soft heart. He gives to them sweet hay, 
clean beds, sound corn, sweet water, the best 
of grooming, the nicest adjustment of strap 
and chain. He gets of them a faithful 
strength that moves mountainous loads, let 
ways be never so sticky, so foul. 

He knows their strength and never asks 
the impossible. " Done gimme all dey got 
cain't do no mo'," he would say, in the 
thrice-impossible event of stalling with a 
load. To-day he works them full strength. 
The corn-land earth is light the corn extra 
heavy. Before he has driven twice the fields' 
length the wheels will crush deep in the mel- 
low soil. See him swing the wagon across 
a row, the tall stalks crashing, crushing to 
earth. How heavy the ears fall ! how high 
they hang in the rows either side ! what 
rain of them the four gatherers toss rever- 
berant in the bed ! Each pulls two rows, 
snapping off the long ears with one dexter- 
ous turn of wrist that leaves the coarse 
outer husk still fluttering from the stalk. 
How they pile in mounding heaps, as the 
wagon moves slow each mule of the six 
nibbling as it pleases him at such ears as 



207 



hang in reach. How lithe and sleek they 
stand ! wise-looking creatures and meek 
something humorous withal in the wag of 
their solemn ears. Evidently corn-gathering 
is an occasion. Manes are roached, tails 
banged to a hair even the ears trimmed 
inside till you see the play of vein and 
muscle lying just under the clipped, silky 
skin. They will have no more careful toilet 
upon Christinas Eve, when all the plantation 
folk, small and great, will ride behind them 
to town to make ready for the day. 

How brave the west wind blows ! Speech 
is drowned over-voiced in the rustle of 
dry blade and tassel. The load grows as 
by magic. Twice Jim has tramped it firm 
in the corners. Yet still it. lies at middle 
high above the wagon-sides. And the field's 
round is not once made. At this rate there 
will be corn and to spare a wide abun- 
dance presaging plenty, profit, for all who 
live by the land. To them corn is basilar. 
It means not merely bread, but meat and 
milk, and sleek, strong teams ; strength in 
winter; speed for the plough. A bursting 
crib is the husbandman's best backer one 
by whose grace he may look fortune square 
in the eye, and blench not, if perchance for 
the minute she frown. 



208 



Somewhat of the jewel, is there not, in 
these slender, long ears, so silken of husk, 
so thick-set with shining, flint-pearl grains ? 
They hang four, five even, to the stalk. 
What wonder the wagon -bed so quickly 
overflows. This is the grain for bread the 
true " Little Willis." Properly shelled and 
ground it gives meal as round, as pearly, as 
fairy hail, of the wholesoinest sweet the 
one corn truly to make one in love with its 
bread. Now and again it yields a red ear 
otherwise there is no stain of color save 
the slender, dull-red cob. 

Jim has swung away, full run, for the crib, 
all his simple soul elate over such abound- 
ing harvest. Almost before you dream it 
he will be back, eager as a child to measure 
the depth of his good-fortune. Leave him 
to the joy of fulness here in the swale. 
Come away to the creek-side. Either hand 
the bottoms have been corn-fields time out 
of mind. This, the near one, has held its 
gatherers many a day. There the fatting 
hogs have rioted since late September days. 
What tangle it lies now, of bent stalks, of 
nipped pea -vines, of fresh -rooted earth! 
The smooth, fat, small-eyed creatures lie at 
ease, lazily grunting, in beds of sweet earth. 
Fifty sixty maybe more. No wonder 



209 

they have stripped this field. See, across 
the stream another wagon is making haste 
to supply their clamorous throats. 

What big, round ears it bears ; yellow as 
gold, wrinkled all over the face of them. 
With their big, coarse cobs, their spongy 
texture, their ungainly - bulk, they seem 
scarcely of kin to the slender flint corn. 
Yet what depth of hue is theirs ! The yel- 
low of them is splashed, dotted, made alive 
with the blackest crimson, most glowing 
strawberry scarlet, with purple to shame 
the amethyst's deep heart. It is not pearls 
that shall be cast before these swine. In- 
stead, something richer, more colorful also, 
no doubt, much more to their mind. 

Andrew, the cropper, has fetched in this 
load. The rig is his own one that moves 
Jim to the liveliest derision. A sway-backed 
brood-mare makes half the team, a small, 
wicked -looking, unkempt mule the other. 
The wagon's four wheels began life each as 
part of a different vehicle. The bed is an- 
other survival apparently of the unfittest. 
Yet Andrew eyes both with the pride of 
possession walking solemnly behind, while 
his small son, aperch on the load, shouts, 
"Gee-up!" and "Haw-w-dar! Whut ye 
doin' now 7 ?" with much jerking of rope-reins. 
14 



210 



Looking closer, you see he sits on the merest 
smattering of corn. Underneath are pump- 
kins, kershaws yellow and green, round, 
oblong, with necks, without from the big- 
ness of your head to that of a bushel meas- 
ure. Now the cloyed hogs shall have a 
dainty dish indeed. See the rush to rend 
and fall upon it, tooth and hoof. Andrew 
looks on with a darkly satisfied smile, 
muttering the while, " Poun's er fat dar, 
gent'emen poun's er fat in dat load. Lek 
de Bible say, you eat an' squeal metty 
brash you gwine die, not ter-morrer, but 
soon as de moon gits right." 

This is to friend Andrew the glory, the 
inner meaning, of all these autumn days. 
Racing by, they bring hog-killing Christ- 
mas the plenteous, the merry, clasp to his 
year of toil. 

The sun stands straight overhead ; the 
wind drops ; the haze thickens. Yellow cre- 
puscular light lies soft upon the world the 
world so adrowse in this thick, warm air. 
Last night was the third of frost. Now 
there shall come, most like, days of long, 
rolling cloud ; of sparse, dripping rain ; of 
south wind softer than the summer knew. 
Earth will lie sodden, sopping wet, a quag- 
mire to wheel and hoof. When again the 



211 



west wind dries out the corn, Jim will say, 
as he stands harnessing at morning, to An- 
drew, the cropper, " Putty rough on yo' spike- 
team, Brer Andrew dis yere rain ; but my 
mules oh, shucks ! man, 'taint no mud can 
stop dem not dis side whar daddy lived 
back yonder in ole Ferginey." 




A HUNTER'S MOON 



iRULY there is magic in it. So 
high, so white, it hangs, the 
flooding silver of it washing 
out to dun pallor all the lin- 
gering scarlet and yellow, and 
purple and flame, of this late autumn world. 
The charmed wind lies in leash. Nor breath, 
nor ripple, stirs in the low leaf or the' high. 
From the runnels mists creep slow and 
slower, to lie in long, straight wefts above 
the chilling earth. Now turf and weeds are 
damp, glistering with fine beads that in 
sunrise shall show as frost. Through the 
hush a lone, late cricket chirps desolately 
faint. Far and faint from the wood's deep 
heart the owls send out their shouting 
" whoo-whoo-whoo-whoo-hoo-oo !" 

For all that, 'tis no moon for sighing 
this jocund orb, swimming up the east. It 
showed crescent, ran to quarter in the 
nights of gay October. Now, at full, it 
lights the sere fields, the thinning woods 



a true hunter's moon, by help of whose shin- 
ing you shall take and spoil the wild creat- 
ures that walk abroad by night. 

Sport of the rarest, an you have true 
hunting blood. Without it the night shall 
not, for you, be filled with music ; indeed, 
you are like to get nothing but weariness of 
body, vexation of spirit. Given so much of 
primal savagery life holds few pleasures to 
match the glimpses of such a moon. 

See ! Black Daddy is waiting in the cabin 
door, his burly bigness sharply silhouetted 
by the red fire -shine inside. He leans 
heavily on an axe, fresh from the grind- 
stone, holds a half-dozen unlit splint torches 
lightly under one arm. A brindled dog, 
with ridiculous short tail, crouches at his 
feet, seemingly supine, yet with every sense 
alert. Outside, the clear moon-rays show a 
smaller black fellow so dark, his eyes shine 
fiery-green from under his low lashes. He 
sits very upright, his bow-legs making queer, 
bulging shadows on the turf head aside, 
ears sharply cocked, tail faintly aquiver. 
Each fibre of him stands at attention. Axe, 
torches, are to him language visible he has 
no mind to be left out of the sport they 
foreshow. 

Black Daddy loves his dogs better, al- 



214 

most, than himself. By the hour he will 
tell you tales of them Music and Damsel. 
Days through, they run at his heels ; nights 
through, they watch outside his door. Price- 
less both, though the one is but a lurching 
mongrel, the other a cross - bred hound. 
Dogs of renown both, spite such blots of the 
scutcheon. Music is the better coon dog, 
Damsel has no equal for trailing a possum. 
Both have the finest keen noses, able to pick 
up the faintest scent, and trail the quarry 
hot-foot to his lair. 

Very often one is taken, the other left at 
guard. Naturally they hate each the other 
with deadly dog-fury. Music has laid his 
two paws over his master's feet, put his head 
between them, is quivering through and 
through, giving out the while little, low, pite- 
ous whimpers, his plea not to be left behind. 
At sound of it Damsel, whose name belies his 
sex, growls slightly, beats the earth more 
vigorously with his tail, then rises, trots a 
little way down the path, looking back over 
his shoulder to see if he is followed. Now 
he stops short, slinks backward half a rod. 
The cabin door shuts to with a great bang 
Daddy stands fair in the light, with Music 
still glued to his heels, but uttering quick, 
joyful yelps. A breath's space Damsel lis- 



215 

tens, then is off, with arrowy rush, down the 
path to the woods. 

Daddy raises a mellow shout, the signal 
of assembly to his stout young followers, 
who tumble out, leaping, singing, "patting 
Juba," as though they had not been gather- 
ing corn all day. When he offers them 
each a torch, they set up a great crying-out, 
and toss them instantly in a handy fence cor- 
ner. " We not er gwine huntin' ghos'es 
an' de's 'nough moonshine fer coon er pos- 
sum," says the boldest malcontent, running 
away after the dogs. 

Now the rest step sturdily out. Daddy, 
leading, looks up at the pale stars. There 
he reads the hours. It is nine o* the clock, 
so dewy-damp the scent must lie and hold, 
even in sedge and weeds. The open is 
bright as the morning. It will be two hours, 
though, ere the moon stands straight enough 
to light the wooded hill-sides leading up from 
the creek. A rolling who-whoop comes 
over his lips. You hear a youngster say, 
"Dat's it, Daddy! holler possum." The 
next minute all have fetched a compass, 
head straight for the old field. 

Grapes abound there, persimmons hang 
sweet and plenty. Master Graycoat most 
like is afeast in it, with all his sisters, cous- 



216 



ins, aunts. Mark Damsel's mad delight! 
See him leap and circle a black ghost, light 
and swift wider, ever wider, in his round. 
Often sedge quite hides him, briers swal- 
low him up, but nothing daunts or hinders. 
Ah ! he has found hear the low, yelping 
cry that Music so enviously seconds. The 
tones are wondrous individual. Music's 
note might be all-compact of echoes from 
his dozen ancestral strains. Blood tells 
especially hounds' blood. Damsel's clear 
belling sets all the field aring. 

Hither and yon he dashes, nose to earth, 
tail high and waving. Truly, Master Pos- 
sum came in by crooked ways. The trail- 
ing dogs give tongue but sparely, so swift, 
so winding, do they run along his track. 
Around, across, it goes, now along the crest- 
ing upland, now deep in the thick swales. 
Now comes chorus of deep baying. Dam- 
sel has treed there to the right, in that 
single tall persimmon-tree. And look ! this 
clear moon shows two of the gray glut- 
tons crouching close in its slender upper 
boughs. No use to try and shake them 
out ; the slight limbs would bear scarce a 
heavier weight than theirs. It is a case for 
the axes ah ! how swift they fly. Almost 
before the baying dogs catch breath the 



217 



slim tree crashes to earth, with two seem- 
ing-dead creatures still fast in its top. See 
the long, bare tails, each coiled snug about 
a limb. Not a quiver, not the turning of a 
hair, though Damsel darts at one to give it 
an angry shake. Daddy rescues it, his fel- 
lows the while making the night-world ring 
with shouting. A far hill catches the sound, 
flings it back a mocking echo. 
Somebody begins to chant, 

"Oh! Mister Possum, ye think ye's mighty soon, 
But ye sho' ter git cotched by de light er de 
moon." 

Daddy sniffs at the singer. " Better be 
savin' dat breff ter hole 'im. Take dis yere 
stickful, boy, an' go gilpin' 'long home." At 
the word you see that he has split a stout 
stick, six feet long, a little way at either end, 
put the tail of a possum in each cleft, and 
is balancing it across the chanter's shoul- 
der, little as that person likes it. He opens 
a remonstrant mouth, but is waved away. 
Daddy is autocratic disobedience means 
no more hunting with Music and Damsel. 
Hark! they have found again Music this 
time in the lead. But how queerly they 
run giving tongue faint and uncertainly 
a perplexed note, as though saying, "We 
fear to follow our noses." 



218 



The scent runs straight with now and 
again a gap as though broken by a leap. 
Now the dogs head for the sink-hole, run- 
ning fast almost as hard as they can lay 
legs to earth. They bark furiously a gut- 
tural, angry note, different far to the baying 
of Master Possum. Ah ! they have stopped 
short there, beside that thick, thorny clump 
overhanging the earthy cavern. See them 
leaping, howling, with bristles upright, with 
gnashing fangs. Hist! Hear the spitting 
growls from the thicket. They must come 
from beast of prey, not beast of game. 
Daddy listens, his head to one side, mutters 
" Varmint," then steps back to plan the at- 
tack. A minute later he has lighted his 
torch, and with two men at his back, armed 
each with a stout pole, comes up to the 
angry dogs. He tosses the blazing brand 
far into the thicket, springs aside barely 
in time to escape something fiery-eyed, 
furious, strong of claw that leaped his- 
sing, yowling, at his throat lies, savagely 
defiant, spite the blows rained over it, the 
dogs' angry rushes. 

Daddy speaks to them in sorrow, in an- 
ger. " Git erway, you fool dawgs ! Whut 
done come ober you, chasin' cat dat erway ? 
Right smart ole wild-cat he is but shucks ! 



219 

I don' lek ter be so fooled." Music slinks 
off, his tail betwixt his legs. Damsel looks 
about critically, as though to say, " I knew 
all the time it was not quite the thing. De- 
pend on it, alone I should not have made 
the mistake." The poor cat is tossed into 
the sink-hole's dark depth. Daddy picks 
up his torch, carefully puts out each spark 
it has left in the tangle, and goes away to 
the woodland, a faint, smoky pennon trail- 
ing out behind. 

He strikes straight for the river channel. 
Just here a creek makes into it the tall 
timber abounds in hollow trees, wherein 
Master Coon makes his abode. A rare 
night-rover he lying sluggish all the day, 
nor rousing him till darkness has covered 
the face of earth. Now the cocks crow 
midnight ; straight moonbeams pour white 
through the flecked boughs above, and turn 
all to silvern ghosts the woods' dim colon- 
nades. Doubtless he is well abroad hark ! 
Music has found is running as for life. 
" Who-oop ! hi-yi-yi-ya ! hunt him up, ole 
dog ! hunt him up !" Daddy yells at the note 
and is chorussed by the rest. The sound 
fills all the river-valley, lying so still, lapped 
in this slumberous calm. Far down it, on 
the other side, an answering shout breaks 



out. Other hunters, no doubt all good 
men and true ; but never envy them they 
may have dogs, get game galore, but they 
have not Music and Damsel, whom to fol- 
low is a liberal education in a coon-dog's 
points. 

The cry, the yelling, is their very breath 
of life. How wide Music runs ! how high 
he leaps, sniffing with lifted nose, now this 
tree, now that. Ah ha ! Master Coon has 
been found away from home cut off from 
it, indeed and is making for it through 
the tree tops. Over there he left the earth 
ran from bough to bough, from tree to 
tree, till he thought the trail safely broken. 
Music knew the trick well caught the 
scent hot in air has picked up the trail 
where Master Ringtail came down is after 
him hot-foot. 

A breathless scamper, truly. Away ! 
away ! through thicket, through clear forest, 
running, stumbling, falling, over rocks or 
fallen timber, now resting for a minute, now 
hasting as though life lay in speed. Ever 
in front to guide you, the short, shrill yelp- 
ings cutting sharp through the night, the 
wild yelling, the deep halloo, sent back, forth, 
from bank to bank. Now the sound of 
axes, a dull crash, comes from the hither 



221 



side, upborne with a shout of triumph. 
" Dey's cotcht fus' but I lay we gits de 
bigges' coon," Daddy says disdainfully, in- 
flating his lungs for a return halloo. Be- 
fore it is half out of his throat a wild, full 
barking fills all the air. Music has treed 
Damsel comes tumbling over together 
they leap and plunge, noses in air, flinging 
their full cry up to the branches above, 
where lies Master Coon, now plainly visible, 
his green eyes shining hate of all below. 

This refuge should secure him. The tree 
is two feet through thirty feet to the first 
limb. Climbing is out of the question. 
Whether the coon is worth the cutting down 
depends on the strength of your muscles. 
It is but play for these "good men." By 
time you are well breathed, quick strokes 
have sent the tree to earth. As it falls 
Daddy gathers his beloved dogs to him, a 
hand on either collar. " 'Tend ter yo' coon 
yo'se'fs I wants my dogs 'nother night," 
he calls, holding hard the straining creat- 
ures, so madly eager to attack their fallen 
foe. The good men rush at it with clubs 
and axes it darts, creeps, leaps, through 
the brush, eludes their striving, and dashes 
safe into the woods. 

Followed, it is not overtaken. Music runs 



222 



off on a fresh scent, trees in a hollow, and 
sees the righting captive chopped out of it. 
The moon drops westerly oars sound on 
the river. Here are hunters from the other 
bank, come to gossip, join forces, and finish 
up the night. Now, indeed, the chase shall 
stir your blood. They have brought six 
good dogs. All in cry, the heavens shall 
overflow. It is find, follow, kill the first 
cock-crow sounds. The night has grown 
chill, though the huntsmen do not feel it. 
Suddenly some one shivers, with a hint of 
chattering teeth. Make a log- fire on the 
instant. The axemen are hewing hard at a 
big tree that looks to have a handsome coon 
colony. Before it falls you may warm you 
through and through. 

And afterward. While the fire was abuild- 
ing, somebody stole away, rifled a near pota- 
to-patch, and has filled the fire with sweet, 
yellow yams. The sight of them brings 
hunger indeed. Until they are roasted, 
eaten piping hot, no foot will stir. Not 
even Music's or Damsel's. See how quiet 
they lie by the fire, nose in paws, with shut 
eyes, dreaming, no doubt, of the night's vic- 
torious runs. Beyond, the river ripples, the 
moon drops low and lower, frost skims the 
leaves till they rustle underfoot. You tread 



223 

them as air. The soul of the night, of the 
chase, has gone into your blood you are 
drunken as with new wine. Sleep comes 
to you tardily, but of a sweetness before 
undreamed such sleep as truly 

" Knits up the ravelled sleave of care." 

If you wake late, what matter ? Daylight 
is garish, commonplace cheaply exchanged 
in any measure for such glamour of sound 
and sight as last night knew. 




IN MONOCHROME 



i,OU come through a world of 
wailing to a low, strange land 
of death. The sky drops near 
and nearer, apall with dun mist 
that has never a break, a fold ; 
a hint of rifting to the blue beyond. The 
wind is a long, keen sighing, not cutting, 
chilling you to the marrow. Now and again 
it swells to a sob. Surely Nature hath set 
herself at penance for the waste, the spoil- 
ing, of flower and leaf. See the fields wear 
sackcloth of black, rough stems. What ash- 
es must lie under, upon, the wide, smooth 
breast of them, grinding, rasping, till they 
shiver and cry a fine, faint note in this dun 
Miserere. 

Nowhere any softness any hint of hope 
of spring. This land knows never the 
bloom, the brightness, of it. High summer 
even is here but a sun -bright gray-green 
ghost, compact of thick, dark leafage, of 
dim, slant shining through dusk boles to 



225 

dry, dead earth. One hand, the waste comes 
down, the slant of it bare and galled, criss- 
crossed with net of gullies through and 
over its pale clay. Now and again a starve- 
ling cedar has got root-hold, and leans des- 
olately atilt over the narrow yawning. What 
dull funereal hue the tree has ! Seedlings 
but mid-leg high have no character of youth. 
You see age, sighing and sombre, in the 
lift, the branching, of them, as plain as in 
the scraggy parent stem, whose writhen 
boughs show gray and skeletonwise, through 
its sparse green tufts, so niggardly beset with 
blue berries. 

Pity the poor tree. Here it is an alien 
growth. This cold clay deadens, stunts it. 
No wonder it is forever sighing for the rich, 
black, rocky hill -sides, where it comes to 
strength, use, beauty such growth as might 
honor even cedars of Lebanon. Fate, in 
shape of winter birds, set it here, where life 
is but one long death ; where only it cum- 
bers the waste, endures as best it may the 
burden of the years. 

Nearer the swales wave plumy pennons. 
Sedge covers them breast-high, all atangle 
with long briers and wild-creeping things. 
Up through it dead mullein stalks thrust 
their tall stiffness. All about is a tossing 



226 



of gray -brown furzy weeds. From their 
root a dull thread of wetness steals through 
the low, sour earth, out into the space of si- 
lence, ruin, death. 

Here it slips across the wood-road. Have 
a care. To set foot on a wrong spot is to 
go knee- deep in the quagmire. Look to 
the other hand. There lies the great swamp. 
This water feeds the road-side pond that at 
last drains away into it. What sullen, sul- 
len water ! So wide, so gray. The year has 
been wet. See how far beyond its banks the 
trees stand dead a high, whitish ring about 
each trunk. Water made it sour, stagnant 
water that shut life away from their root, 
albeit they were all growths of the marsh- 
land sweet -gum, water and swamp oak, 
big, straight-bodied elms. Spring brought 
them bravely into bud the rains descend- 
ed, the floods came the pond spread and 
spread. For weeks it lapped their roots, 
their trunks sickness fell upon them as 
in a night they withered. Now they stand, 
gray and crumbling, outside the deadly wa- 
ter, a sere, sombre background for its low, 
lapping shield. 

How tranced it lies, for all this ruffling 
wind. You would never dream that still 
and silver seeming masked murder for man 



227 

or beast. The water is but barely breast- 
deep, with no tide, no current. Danger, sure, 
cannot lurk in aught so calm ! Look at it 
again. The road runs past it thirsty beasts 
might pause to drink of its clear depth. Yet 
never a hoof -mark dints its soft margin, 
sparse wheels stay not, even the wild creat- 
ures keep them afar off. 

You have not thought what lies under 
quicksand heavy, sucking, holding of per- 
ilous depth. Once fast in it, you must pray 
for a bullet, the lightning's flash any quick, 
merciful ending to its gripping agony. Ver- 
ily it is a sea shall give up neither living 
nor dead out of which nothing comes ever 
save Jack o' Lantern to bewilder and be- 
tray. 

He holds here highest revel. Of still, 
warm nights you may see his fairy lights 
adance over all the wooded swamp. Now 
they circle some huge, bent trunk, now leap 
bounding to the branches for the most 
part, though, plod slow and fitful, as though 
they were indeed true lantern rays, guiding 
the night-traveller by safe ways to his goal. 
Master Jack is full of treacherous humor. 
Follow him at your peril. He flies and flies, 
ever away, to vanish at last over the swamp's 
worst pitfall, leaving you fast in the mire. 



228 



Wise folk say he has no volition he but 
flees before the current set up by your mo- 
tion. We of the wood know better. There 
is method in Jack's madness. He knows 
whereof he does. Science shall not for us 
resolve him into his original elements turn 
him to rubbish of gases and spontaneous 
combustion. Spite his tricksy treachery, 
he shall stay to light fairies on their revels, 
scare the hooting owls to silence. 

Come now into the swamp. The waters 
are shrunken you may walk dry-shod from 
root to root. See them, writhen, crawling 
along the gray, hard earth so hard and 
smooth the leaves have rifted away in long, 
deep ripples. Here is nothing to check 
them no enlacement of low tangle only 
the big, bare-boiled trees, above these ser- 
pent roots. The winds at play have left 
earth's face all bare. About the roots it 
is powder-dry, and hard and gray as stone. 
Here and there a low space holds yet a 
deep, brown pool, so clear you can see the 
thready roots below, so still it mirrors you, 
the boughs dark above, with dull, gray sky 
behind. 

These be remnants of spring waters, 
outer and visible signs of depths and flow- 
ings below that no summer sun may touch. 



22Q 

The first rain will melt the crusted earth, 
set the big roots creeping deep and deeper 
make all this mile-long forest passable for 
naught that hath not wings. 

Winged things love it not save, indeed, 
the bittern, who builds here her nest, booms 
sullen over the marsh- land all the bright 
summer through. Sometimes the wood- 
pecker comes aforaging sometimes, too, 
the log -cock flies screaming across the 
gloom. Never any singing bird robin, 
red-bird, thrush, oriole, nor wren. Now one 
crow caws loud from the pond to his fel- 
lows in the swamp. Far overhead a buz- 
zard circles on spread wings, settles, drops, 
as though here he found a feast. 




FRESH FIELDS AND PASTURES NEW 



ET down the bars. Corn-gath- 
ering is over. Now Star and 
Spot, and Brandy and Daisy, 
Sook, the bell-cow, and frisky 
young Blossom shall leave 
their short grass for the corn-field's rich 
luxuriance, there to crop and nuzzle, and 
frisk and low, till the winds blow chillest 
winter. There they may choose 'twixt the 
green herb and the dry. What cow of good 
taste loves not the picking of the field? 
The fine fresh shucks are toothsome indeed. 
Besides, are there not plenteous tidbits of 
nubbin surprises, now and then, of the full 
ear overlooked ? 

All serve to sauce and savor the lush 
green rye. Sown in August through the 
standing corn, its green mat hides the earth 
stands high about the ankle rich, ten- 
der, full of juice, a very paragon of pastur- 
age now that the frost nips hard. 

Here, in shelter of the corn-stalks, his tooth 



231 

has lost its sharpness, his breath its sting. 
Through bare grass -land the wind blows 
keen. These sere ranks, battered and broken 
though they be, hold him smartly at bay 
cut and shiver his legions to a long, low, 
shrilling sigh. 

Blow high or low, these good creatures 
take no thought of him. See them run 
hither and yon, through the length, the 
breadth, of it all, snatching here a green 
mouthful, pulling down there a russet stalk, 
capering, lowing, tossing the head aside, 
madly joyous, full to overflowing with a 
dainty lust of possession. 

Bell-cow Sook tries vainly to enforce her 
right of precedence. All summer for how 
many summers ? she has swung her tink- 
ling sceptre at front in all pastures. She 
has led the rest marching meekly behind. 
Here, in this late green largess, they low 
her quite to scorn. 

Mistress Blossom even as by right of her 
Holstein blood, her staring, black -patched 
white coat swings her long tail imperti- 
nently in the bell-cow's face, and meets the 
avenging rush of her insulted monarch with 
a strenuous uplifting of heels. Ah me ! 
Times do change and manners with them. 
Mistress Blossom has quite forgot that three 



232 

years back she, coming motherless, a bare 
week old, to this strange place, found in 
Sook, the bell-cow, a tender foster-mother, 
amiably willing that the new comer should 
share with her own calf her flow of rich, warm 
milk, the rough side of her licking tongue. 

Maybe Brandy's memory is longer. A 
rich red she, with faint roan markings on 
back and breast a big, handsome, full- 
uddered creature, with character writ large all 
over her. See her look of large-eyed won- 
der at the ingrate Holstein. Three seconds 
she pauses, her mouth full of dropping green, 
one fore-foot in air, then, with a bellowing 
snort of rage, she dashes at the offender, 
pummels her soundly with rapid horns, bears 
her to the knees in her impetuous rush 
then turns away, flirting her tail, as though 
to say, " I am all for peace but, really, such 
manners I never could abide." 

Sook, the bell -cow, marches away with 
never a look of thanks to her defender. No 
doubt she is properly grateful but, oh ! the 
misery of coming to need defence worse, 
a thousand -fold, than the original hurt. 
Brandy is a good creature well meant and 
all that. But but she would have done 
better not to see that the power of the seep- 
Besides, if she finds it 



333 

thus easy to rule, may she not be tempted 
to reign? That were, indeed, intolerable. 
Better, a hundred times better, see Blossom, 
for all her sins, usurp the crown the bell. 
She has at least the merit of strange, high 
blood. Bell-cow Sook herself owns Devon 
crosses. Brandy is pure scrub, albeit her 
milk is the best, the richest, the most plen- 
tiful, of all that comes to the pail. 

Now from the bars come loud bellowings 
noise of many hoofs the young cattle in 
irruption twenty steers and heifers, wild 
all with this embarrassment of riches. By 
twos, by threes, they run, prancing, lowing, 
up to, around, each of the milky mothers, 
now industriously at graze. What queer 
noises rise up on all sides cries, bleating, 
long, faint calling. The younglings lock 
horns, push, tussle, fall prone to earth, pick 
themselves up, and rush away after a fresh 
antagonist. All summer long they have 
grazed side by side. The old pasture to- 
day would see them dejectedly peaceful. It 
must be the sense of enlargement the sud- 
den freedom of this so long guarded field 
has gone to the head, and set them lunatic 
with joy. 

Brandy has spied amid the youngsters 
her last year's calf a saucy red beauty, 



234 

the mother over again. With a rush she is 
beside the young creature, licking it loving- 
ly all over the head and ears, cuddling it 
under her chin with a low, joyful moo-oo. 
Then she trots contentedly to the farthest 
edge the youngling close beside there to 
feed or lie in the sun till the bars are let 
down and the milk-maid's cry comes peal- 
ing over the field. 

Black Betty's voice is clear and sweet. 
" Sook-cow ! Sook ! So-ook ! So-oo-ook ! " 
she calls over and over through the waning 
day. Slow, heavy, full-fed, the herd marches 
to her behind the bell. They break to awk- 
ward running at sight of her. She holds 
high the little splint salt-basket, and drops 
for each a separate pinch "a lick," she 
calls it in some spot of bare earth on the 
hard outer road. 

With what haste of lapping tongues they 
devour it. Fancy yourself full-fed on water- 
sweet herbage then think what eager long- 
ing for the pungent, saving tang. Brandy, 
in the relish of it, forgets the young eyes so 
wistfully regarding her just inside the bars. 
When the last white grain has vanished, the 
salt earth even is scooped, she lows a good- 
night to her big baby and ambles away to 
her small one. 



235 

Suckling calves have freedom of the 
wheat-field. The cow-pen is there upon its 
hither verge. See the frisking clamorers 
clustered outside, sending a chorus of bleats 
to greet and hasten their homing mothers. 
Pretty fellows ! All fine as silk, with gay red- 
and-white coats and velvet muzzles. Saucy, 
too ! See them race about, with tails curled 
daintily over the back, a merry soft lighten- 
ing in the big dark eyes. 

Calling, answering, the cows come down 
the lane. Half-way they break to running 
come full-tilt to the cow-pen's gate. Once 
inside, each goes soberly to her allotted 
place. Betty lets in a calf Brandy's. Ev- 
idently she is prime favorite with the milk- 
maid. Softly, deftly, she " suckles the calf," 
shifting his small, eager mouth from teat to 
teat. As much low milk as he pleases, so 
he leaves her the cream. She leans con- 
tentedly against Brandy's warm side, till 
creamy froth ropes down from the calf's 
quick mouth. Then comes a tug of war. 
Betty seizes both ears tugs, tugs breaks 
his hold, loses her own totters falls flat 
springs up with a laughing cry, again 
muzzles her enemy, wraps his head in her 
apron, and backs him, tossing and strug- 
gling, to safe outer regions. 



236 

Betty is an artist in her own line. See 
how deftly, with what dainty touch, she 
washes the udder clean, wipes it dry, bathes 
her two hands, sets a big tin pail on the 
ground, and begins to play a tune in it with 
thick, white, foamy streams. Brandy stands 
throughout, the sum and pattern of mild- 
eyed patience. Once she turns her head, 
as if minded to lick Betty as she licked her 
calf. Evidently she thinks better of it, and 
looks straight away into the sunset, through 
the steam of her fragrant breath. Soon the 
big white udder hangs limp and wrinkled. 
Betty takes her head out of the hollow of 
Brandy's flank to say, as she lifts her brim- 
ming pail, "A pound er butter down weight 
every day of de week, dat whut my cow's 
good for an' raise her calf too. Butter 
yaller as gole at dat. Tell me 'bout Jersey- 
cow much as you please ; ef any Jersey beat 
dat, I wish dey wus fotcht ter dis neck er 
de woods. I heap ruther see it 'an hear 
talk on it." 




COME CHRISTMAS-DAY 



DECEMBER winds do blow, blow, 
blow. Out from all the heav- 
ens they sweep and swirl. 
Now the sere land shivers, the 
groaning trees bend low. Now 
barely the dead leaves rustle, the thistle- 
down wings away. Wind o' the north 
brings ice and sleet; wind o' the south sheds 
tears in flood over the poor year's dying. 
East wind sighs sullen through swathe of 
chill mist. West wind blows on to brave 
blue skies that may fitly roof this holy day 
of feast. 

Christmas, crown o' the year ! Golden 
clasp to its round of light and shadow. 
Truly the bells of it shall ring out, " Plague 
I banish, peace I bring." Welcome it roy- 
ally. Spread out for soul and sense a feast 
of fat things, good to the use of edifying. 

Go along woodland ways, and spoil them 
in its name. Take to your hands remorse- 
less every green thing. Spare not sighing 



238 

cedar bough, nor garish holly ; break long 
trails of wax-green brier ; pluck by armfuls 
of the hill-side fern. 

How green it lies, prone on Earth's breast, 
nestled in russet leaves. Seize it, and spare 
not. The fairies are all asleep in deepest 
caves of Gnomeland. Did they stir, they 
would help you elfishly thus to rob their 
brothers, the snow -sprites, the ice -fays. 
Pluck the great leaf, the small; weave your 
wreath, or arch, or ribbon of them ; hang 
wall, door, pillar, with their lacy emerald. 
The very soul of Christmas clings and 
abides in it more than even in the holly 
so ruddily bedight, so wreathed and woven 
through Christmas song and story. A 
cheery green, no doubt, yet something bar- 
baric, with its gloss, its sharp leaf -points, 
its crude glow of berry. Use it with spar- 
ing wisdom, else the glare of it shall put 
out of countenance the tender soberness of 
cedar and fern and thorny smilax. Break 
long boughs scant of berry but here and 
there a coral gleam to set high in dull cor- 
ners or shadowed nooks. Wreathe them 
above your chimney-piece, in welcome to 
Kriss Kringle ; set here and there a stem 
about marble or picture ; as you love the 
season leave unmade star, wreath, or cross. 



239 

Lift your eyes to the mistletoe waving 
overhead. A rare clump truly thick-sown 
with greenish pearl. It feeds, too, upon 
oak-sap. In time of the Druids such root- 
hold had made it sacred. At Beltane, the 
year's high holyday, the chief priest had 
come with all his train to cut the bough 
with a golden knife and bear it in state to 
the altar. Rarities, you see, have always 
been precious. Mistletoe grows for the 
most part on other than oak-trees. Like 
most parasites, it loves best the succulence 
of water -side growths. Almost you can 
trace the creek's windings through the 
wood by the yellow-green blotches of it, 
splashed through the bare tree-tops. 

An uncanny growth, this rooted vampire ! 
The stiff, thick, straight-branched stems are 
just the green of the small leaves. It owns 
no grace, no sweetness even in fullest 
berry. Like some uninteresting persons it 
boasts only " the claim of long descent," the 
charm of tradition. In virtue of them give 
it plentiful room. Hang it high in hall and 
stair let it droop from your lintel, whitely 
bestar your garland. The wood yields it 
lavishly. Take of its abundance with open 
hand. 

Take, too, dark trails of cross-vine. The 



240 

stiff, smooth, mottled leaves, drooping by 
twos all along the slender stalk, will hang 
fresh and unwrinkled upon your wall for 
weeks. Twine it light about your mirror, 
so its image shall show in the glass, or 
wreathe with it the picture of your love, or 
drop it in long festoons from under knots 
of gay holly, and light its dark twining with 
silver-feathering of clematis in seed. 

Here be dead boughs, all forested with 
gray lichen, dead bark with rich embroidery 
of gray and green. Choose you good store 
of both they light up wonderfully. Beside, 
their soft tones bring harmony out of chro- 
matic discord. ( Choose, too, thick mats of 
moss the greenest, the velvetiest of all the 
wood. Take with it the wild roots it shelters, 
and set moss and roots, with a fringing of 
fern, in fair, wide, shallow pots. They ask 
neither sun nor earth give them but space 
and water they spread you a feast of green, 
whereon the eye may rest till its lid drops 
and in sleep come dreams of the summer 
world. 

What dinsome clamor swells up from 
the wood-pile. The axemen are all chop- 
ping for life, cutting " Christmas wood " 
enough to feed all the hearths till the New 
Year shines in room of the old. They sing 



241 

at their work ah, so cheerly! How the 
bright steel eats through the logs ! Decem- 
ber though it be, each dark face is beaded 
thick with sweat, albeit they stand in shirt- 
sleeves tossing the fire-sticks hither and yon. 

Choose now a Yule-log, remembering the 
while that the soul, the spirit, of Christmas 
abides but through its burning. Not this 
sightly hickory. Big and solid as it lies 
fire will go through it in a single night, 
leaving never a brand to lay away for next 
year's kindling. This round, dense post- 
oak were longer-flamed, yet still too brief. 
Green poplar on the dogs is a snare, a de- 
lusion ; dry, fire burns it likq windy stubble. 
Ash, elm, white -oak? All good, but not 
best. Ah ! here is the wood of endurance 
this gnarled, rough, knotted black-jack 
two feet through at butt, so dense, so close, 
as almost to turn the axe's edge. 

Cut your log thence, and bear it straight 
to its appointed place. How black the 
wide - throated chimney yawns. It is five 
feet betwixt jambs, with a wide, generous 
hearth. Lay your log flat upon it, close 
against the chimney back. Set in front of 
it the tall, heavy, wrought -iron dogs; pile 
them high with round sticks, small hickory 
logs, and chips, and bark. Fill all the space 
16 



242 

underneath with fine, dry splinters, then 
leave it untouched till the Christmas Eve 
shall come. 

Light it then with a handful of red live 
coals. Watch them smoulder smoke kin- 
dle to creeping flame. A little while, it roars 
and flashes high in the chimney-throat, leap- 
ing, hissing, crackling now blue, now yel- 
low, at last clear red the glow, the glory, 
of Christmas so fine, so hot, Kriss Kringle 
might leave pack and reindeer to sun him 
in its blaze. 

Eleven o' the clock. The blaze is a 
steady burning. Twelve, red coals overflow 
to the wide hearth. One, in the morning, 
fine frosting lies on the coals. Two, three, 
here is pallor of ashes enshrouding the red 
heart. Back of them the big log shows 
black and stark burned half to the heart, 
still faintly asmoulder. As cocks crow in 
the dawn it gives out the barest crackle; 
the hand may pass unscathed where last 
night was such fierce shining. 

Once, twice, many times, flame shall lick 
and roar ere the stout timber crumbles to 
ashes. Sit in the light, the warmth, of it ; 
take thus strength to your soul, your spirit. 
So shall you front, clear-eyed and smiling, the 
stress, the shining, of the brave New Year. 



W. HAMILTON GIBSON'S WORKS. 

No one knows more of flowers, shrubs, trees, and 
birds than Mr. Gibson, or of the special haunts and 
homes of all of them : and even readers to whom bot- 
any is a sealed book may follow him into the fields 
and woods and marshes with a full certainty of being 
charmed and enlightened in unexpected ways. 
JV. Y. Tribune. 

SHARP EYES: A Rambler's Calendar of Fifty- 
two Weeks among Insects, Birds, and Flow- 
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STROLLS BY STARLIGHT AND SUN- 
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PASTORAL DAYS. Illustrated by the Author. 
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Published by HARPER & BROTHERS, New York. 

[SIP" The above works will be sent by the publishers, postage 
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, SHu 



DR. C. C. ABBOTT'S WORKS. 



UPLAND AND MEADOW. A Poaetquissings 
Chronicle, i2mo, Cloth, Ornamental, $i 50. 

Delightful reading for students and lovers of out- 
door nature. . . . Here the author discourses with the 
greatest charm of style about wood and stream, marsh- 
wrens, the spade-foot toad, summer, winter, trumpet- 
creepers and ruby throats, September sunshine, a col- 
ony of grakles, the queer little dwellers in the w T ater, 
and countless other things that the ordinary eye passes 
without notice. . . . The book may be heartily com- 
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mirer of graceful and nervous English. Satiirday 
Evening Gazette, Boston. 

WASTE -LAND WANDERINGS. i2mo, 
Cloth, Ornamental, $i 50. 

There is a freshness about his anecdotes of fishes 
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that must make the book delightful to every lover of 
similar sports. To those who have not the leisure 
nor the enterprise for similar expeditions the reading 
of it will charm many an idle hour, besides imparting 
in the most agreeable manner possible a large fund of 
interesting information. St. Louis Republican. 

It is a charming book, introducing the reader to the 
interesting guests and dwellers in the forests, upon 
the downs, and by the river-side. All lovers of nat- 
ure will find an abundant source of instruction and 
pleasure in it. Zioris Herald, Boston. 



Published by HARPER & BROTHERS, New York. 

Sgp^ Either of the above works will be sent by mail, postage 
prepaid, to any part of the United States, Canada, or Mexico, 
on receipt of the price.